Jodi Hills

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


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And so she would dance.


A writer writes. A singer sings. A painter paints. You are these things because you do them. You live them. Not because someone gives you the title or pays you to do it. You decide.


For years. I painted in my bathroom. It, (along with the kitchen), was the only place that was not carpeted. It just made sense. Large canvases I could elevate on the side of the bathtub, and a closed water closet made for a perfect seat. Really large canvases could be upright, while I stood and reached through the bathroom door. I was a painter in my studio. As simple as that. And I loved it, just as much as I love painting now in Cezanne’s back yard in the south of France.


If you’re waiting for the perfect time. The perfect place. You’ll never do anything. I’ve always believed if you really want to do something, I mean really want to do it, you’ll find a way with who you are and what you have.


The easiest thing to find in this life is an excuse not to do something. Oh, those excuses, they are readily available. Waiting, cocked and loaded. But what if we took another look.


My mother loved to go dancing at the Glenwood Ballroom. Big bands. Big shoes. Big nights. She loved to dance. The truly big names of the big bands stopped coming. She had kids to raise. A job to work. But she still found time to teach me how to dance. 1-2-3, 1-2-3. Slow, quick-quick. Step, place, three, cha-cha. A heel and a toe and polka step. We had a kitchen floor. We had music. We were dancers. Simple as that.


And I guess she taught me more than just how to dance. She taught me how to see. See what I had, right in front of me. Appreciate it. Use. it. Find a way. So today I will paint. Today, I will dance!


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Sans temps. (Without time. )

My mother-in-law is without time. Some days she is forty years old. Some days 60. I suppose after nearly a century you should be allowed to choose your own age. And she does. Without apology, she is young, she has babies, and thinks you are the crazy one for getting older. She’s probably right.

There is a young girl that I have painted. Little girl blue. She is just about to dance. She’s just a tiny bit afraid, but determined. And you know she will do it. I see her every morning. In my bathroom mirror, her reflection is just beside mine. I put on my dress, and I too, am without time. I, too, have the legs of youth, and can hear the music. There is no yesterday, or tomorrow, just the open blue of today, and I can’t waste it. I let go the fear of time passing, and simply dance.


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And so she would dance

Perhaps the most useless thing I almost learned in junior high was square dancing.
At Central Junior High, 6th – 9th grade, the girls took physical education, not in the gym, but in the girls’ gym. To get to the girls’ gym, you had to take the back staircase, down a small tunnel-like hallway (which they painted pink, as if the point hadn’t already been made), through the final doorway into a windowless box. 

Once a year, we were invited into the center of the school, gleaming wood floors, bleachers, windows, two entrances, and a stage — the boys’ gym — for square dancing with the boys. 
It was almost shocking at first, the glow of it all, but reality unpacked its bags as we were dosie-doed for one week, then returned to the pink of the back stairwell. 


I loved sports in both junior and senior high, but it wasn’t until after college that I found my place. I began to run and bike, by myself. The open roads. The wind in my hair. The thoughts. The music in headphones. The books on tape. This was my world. This for me, was winning.


On my morning walk, I listened to a podcast about Choreographer Twyla Tharp, the legendary choreographer and dancer, who got her start performing on subway platforms and rooftops in the 1960s. She knew she did not have the perfect body for ballet, the perfect technique, but she was strong, smart, and she loved dance. She knew her path was to be made, not followed. And she did. She combined modern moves, with classical moves, she introduced new music, and she created a world of dance that no one had ever seen, or felt. And they followed her, men and women alike.


Today the sun is shining. My legs are strong. And I am happy.  You can take what they give you. You can envy what the others have. Or you can find your own way, and really dance!


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Sing.

I went for a walk this morning.  The sky was mostly gray. The ground wet from last night’s rain. I listened to a few podcasts for inspiration. The words were good, but they didn’t really leap into my heart.  So I kept walking. Looking. Turning corners, passing trees. And then the prettiest little bird flew directly in my path, landing in the tree that guards our garage. The most elegant mix of blues and yellows. I know that bird. I have painted that bird.  It was, in fact, the first bird I painted in France.  The first bird I heard in France. With a song, so delicate, so lovely, saying, “Every day she decides to be happy, and sings.”  


I was visiting with my mother on the phone yesterday. Remember when I told you that I know my grandmother’s handwriting, and how important that is? Well, maybe even more importantly, I know my mother’s laugh. It starts almost as a little chuckle and grows into the most delightful giggle. In this laugh she is young, and possible and cancer free, and she sings. She sings a song so beautiful, that when I start to laugh with her, it becomes a dance.  Because it was just yesterday when she felt the breezes from Lakeside Ballroom, dreamed of Frank Sinatra, gave her heart, smelled the youth of her children, broke her heart, and trusted her heart again…It was just today when the wind brushed her skirt, and she hoped and twirled like a little girl.

What a gift she gives me with her song. What a gift we all have been given – another day!  Another day!!!!  Be happy!  Sing it out loud!