Jodi Hills

So this is who I am – a writer that paints, a painter that writes…

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Passing through.

Yesterday, after posting my daily blog, I learned something new about one of my friends. The news itself was not expected, but receiving news, getting information, learning with each story told, this is not unexpected. Because, I suppose, that’s what these posts are about — these words, an entry to discussion, a connection to others. Opening doors.

I think I’ve always been fascinated with doors. These symbols of coming and going. The ever changing aspects of life. The letting in. The letting go. The moving past. Moving on. The learning. The adventure launched. The welcome home. Open doors.

I hope with each word that I write, each stroke that I paint, you can feel the turn of the doorknob, hear the creak of the hinge, see the light of the new day, and make your way through. Finding a safe place to share your story, opening another door for someone else. Allowing the sweet breeze of life itself to pass on through.

“Let someone in. Let someone go. After you’ve seen it all, you won’t remember the windows and doors, but who passed through.” Jodi HIlls

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Little lamb.

Margaux got her first ipad. She’s only 11. Still a little lamb. She adores art. She fell in love with my ipad (middle aged when I got my first one). She loves to draw using the Procreate app. It’s a wonderful application to be sure. I use it. Millions do. And maybe this is where my hesitation comes from. The millions. The sheep. 

I want for her to embrace all technology. All that the future holds. Progress is good. Yes. But there is so much more. 

The pencil sharpeners we had in school hung at the front of the class at Washington Elementary. Right beside the door. Silver. Heavy duty. Bolted into the wall. The handle made for anxious little lamb arms to circle round and round with all their sweaty might – to achieve that fine point, fit for cursive writing, for cursive drawing. And it was something to go to the front of the class. To step away from the flock and make your own point. We didn’t have words for it then, but it was probably our first risk, our first chance, to bravely stand alone with our Number Two pencil, and prepare to create.

I’m thrilled that Margaux has an ipad. How lucky! But I’m still going to be the one to show her the open fields of paper, and pencils and paint. Of freshly cut wood. Sanded. Of gessoed canvas and stick drawings in the sand. Gently push her to the open door, with tools sharpened, mind and heart wide open. Cheering all the while, as this little lamb is on her way.

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Scraps of scraps

I found some scrap wood the other day to make a frame for my new cowboy painting.  I found four lengths with hardly any to spare. I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes on the cuts. I slowed my brain down, (not an easy task), took a few breaths, sang a slow song, and cut the wood. Aaah, that smell. They fit together perfectly and gave my cowboys the home they were searching for in love’s west.

There were just a few pieces left from the ends.  I cut the angles. Used my homemade square and pieced together another frame. It looked like it might fit the small painting of my two people walking together — “Would it be easier for you if I went with you?” Sometimes the sun and the universe smile together – it fit perfectly.  All I needed was backing for it. I found a piece of wood from an old wine crate and cut it to fit the back of the frame.  (We live in France — we have purchased a bit of wine :)).  It all fit together, as if it were meant to be. And not only that, it had a personality, a life. The grains of the wood aligned with the vineyards, and the movement of my hands, to make a piece of art. Bon Vivant!

I used to go to New York every six months to sell my art. I would fill a pallet with my goods. Arriving at the show, they would bring the pallet, they store it for you during the show then bring it back when it was time to pack up. When they returned the pallet on this, my second show, it came back in pieces. It was connected by a wish and prayer. They laid it in a heap in front of my booth. There was nowhere to get a new pallet after 10pm on a Sunday evening in New York. And no one to ask for help. It was just me and my mom who had made the trip, not to pack, but her role clearly was to pray!  I had to make this work. I pulled nails out of walls and tried to straighten them enough to hammer into the pallet. I used string and rope and tape and more tape. I stretch wrapped in circles until I could no longer see, and then just had to believe. 

A week later it arrived in Minneapolis. In one piece. A tiny shipping miracle, or proof that, once again, we truly are given everything we need.
Some days, it doesn’t seem like it.  Some days seem like nothing will fit, and it’s just too hard. But during those times, I open these gifts of memory – the gifts of miraculous pallets, frames made from scraps of scraps, and I know I can make it through. I know there is beauty! I just have to look around. Pay attention. And believe. I have everything I need.  

Knowing this, I have the strength to turn to you and ask, “Would it be easier for you if I went with you?”


Building a soul

I try to create content every day that “matters.”  But does it?  When I see channels on Youtube featuring vases that sell for one dollar, and they get a million views, I really wonder how do I compete with that???  But I guess I’m not competing with that. Never can and never will.  

So what matters?  It’s very different for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a haul from IKEA. They are very good at what they do.  I, too, have wandered through the maze and been lured by a golden garbage can, or a one dollar candle. And better than anyone, they can fill a house — but how do I fill my soul?

I am the curator of my soul. I search through the alphabet and gather the letters to form the words that make the sentences that create the stories that fill my brain that leak out my ears and turn the corners of my mouth. I spread the colors that join my brushes that collide with the canvas to form the shapes that become my heart’s familiars and beat with pure joy. I search the scrap pile for pieces of wood that get cut into lengths that get nailed into angles that gather in the painted words and painted figures and hold them with a bold strength and a comforting smell that only cut wood can carry. 

It takes a long time to build a soul. And I guess that’s what I’m making, aren’t I?  What I’m building — a soul.  So does it matter.  To me it does. Will it get a million views?  I doubt it. Will it save me, more than a million times?  Oh, yes. I think it already has.  

Once you know your vision, your core, your strengths, your special gift — the only thing left to do is live it. Success can come in every degree, but remember, the work itself — whatever it is: the writing, the painting, the dancing, the living of your uniquely gifted being — can give you everything.

You know best for you. You know what will fulfill you. You set the bar for yourself.

Others’ successes do not hurt you. Be happy for them. Others’ failures do not lift you. They may not even feel they’ve failed. They get to decide that for themselves.

Find joy in the doing. The being. You decide who you are. And the definition is decided by you. A writer writes. A painter paints. You are not defined by awards or titles, or even “likes.”  You are defined by you. Enjoy that. Every day!