Jodi Hills

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



Bracing her hands against her knees, still looking up at the painting, smiling, joyful tears filled her eyes. I stepped closer in, wanting too, to be caught in her moment of happiness.

It isn’t often that I get to finish the sale in person. Normally it’s online, and then I ship it out. The grateful emails are nice, but nothing like being face to face. Yesterday, I got to witness her reaction. In real life. In real time. Of course the money is always nice. There is validation to the dollar amount. But to see the reaction. To know that this painting brings her and her husband home, this is priceless. This is why I keep painting.

There is an intimacy to this life, that should never be missed. When people allow you into their moments, be it tears of joy, or sorrow, go all the way in. Stand beside the raised arms or bent knees and feel the moment. It is the most precious gift we have to give. We have to receive. It takes courage, for sure, to do both, but the rewards are immeasurable.

I hope you see these words each day as doors. As windows. Come in, you and your heart sit down.

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Filled and filled and filled.

When Mrs. Strand abandoned us to take care of other children, horrible other children (I thought), that she liked better, I was just so angry, and mostly hurt. To be fair, they were her children, and yes, she was pregnant with twins, but still.

When the substitute kindergarten teacher walked in — with all her opposites — dark hair, short, nyloned, I was furious. I just wanted to bite her. So I did. I don’t know if she knew it, but I did. When she walked around the classroom halfway through her first day and pushed (quite possibly gently) our heads down to our mats for our morning nap, I was so close to her leg. So close I reached out my mouth. Opened it. I know a loose baby tooth rubbed against her nylon. Maybe she didn’t notice. Maybe it was subtle. But in my five year old brain, the point had been made. I loved Mrs. Strand.

It didn’t take long for me to let it all go, the loose baby teeth, and my hatred for Mrs. Podolski. Maybe it was because she didn’t force me to drink the glass bottled milk before nap time. Or maybe it was because she hung our indescribables (just a longer word for scribbles) all around the classroom. Or maybe she did just pillow our heads to the mats each day. In any case, she was nice. And I loved her too. “There’s so much room in my heart,” I thought, as I fell to sleep on the floor of Washington Elementary.

It was my first lesson in the letting in and the letting go. It wouldn’t be my last. I stopped biting, but my five year old heart didn’t ever really change. It has been pushed and coddled gently. It has been bruised and stretched and filled and filled and filled with the tenderness that only love can bring. It still amazes me. Each morning. I lift my head and think, and hope, and pray, “Let there be room in my heart!”

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The scent of story.

I was only six when I was walked into the library of Washington Elementary. The door opened and it hit me immediately, the familiar scent. I didn’t have the words for it then. The knowledge. Certainly it could have been explained away with paper, and time. The aging, a slight dampness to it all. But I had smelled this before, this comforting familiar. And I needed no explanation, because I was home.

This welcoming scent – it was the same as the entryway to my grandparents’ home. Coats lined the wall. Dampened with work and story, they welcomed anyone who opened the door. They said, come in, you and your heart sit down. It was there I learned to trust. Trust in those who made the effort. Trust in those who worked hard to create something. Create a life.This library of coats. Of living.

When Mrs. Bergstrom, my first grade teacher, let go of my hand, I wasn’t afraid. She set me free in this open and beautiful world. There was life all around me. Book after book. Page after page. The words brushed against my arm, warm and worn, as the sleeve of my grandfather’s coat.

Some might say it is only nostalgia. But what is nostalgia? For me, it is not wanting to live in the past. No, for me, I see it as proof. A living and palpable proof of how it feels to be open. It is a reminder of how glorious life can be. A documentation of the extraordinary doors — the doors that let you in, the ones that set you free.

I don’t know what today will bring. But I know what it feels like to be open. I need no explanation. I brush against the familiar, and walk into the sun.

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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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The forest door.

I saw a door in the forest…a forest I had passed through so many times before. Looking only with my eyes, it had always seemed so typical – whatever that means. Maybe typical is what everyone tells you is supposed to be there. Well, my everyone had never mentioned a door before, so I looked around, as if not to mention it myself.

Left, no one.
Right, no one.
Behind, nope.

It’s like you think you’re safe or something, if you can just walk away without notice. But what you don’t realize is, you’re wrong…you’re not safe really, just alone.

Memories that force hesitation kept me still. If I went forward, what would happen? I had never travelled beyond the shortcut of disbelievers.

I was afraid. Afraid to stay…afraid to leave. Afraid to see beyond the trees. Afraid the door would disappear the moment someone told me it wasn’t there.

A door in the forest. A door in the forest. Repetition didn’t even make it sound right.

I opened and shut my eyes. It was still there.

I pinched my arm. Still there.

“Would you like to enter a world like no other?”

Now it talked? A talking door in the forest?

No. NO! No, I didn’t want to go. No, I didn’t want to stay. No, this wasn’t happening. And no, doors don’t belong in the forest. There was no door in the forest. Just me. Walking through like I always did. Going nowhere. But always getting there. No. No, I didn’t want to go.

My negations weren’t out loud, but the door responded anyway. “Would it be easier for you if I were a tree?”

A tree. Now a tree sort of made sense. A tree, strong and familiar. A tree could lift you to this other world.

I shook my head yes.

Out of the door grew branches and leaves. Branches and leaves that reached higher than any other bark. A tree that lifted me with such strength and gentleness, beyond the greens and browns of familiarity into blues and yellows and whites…opening my breath to the clean smell of hope.

With the branches blowing in the breeze, the tree asked me if I wanted to go farther…go farther and faster and higher and farther and faster and higher.

“Trees can’t fly.” I said.

“Would it be easier for you if I were a bird?”

A bird. A bird could maybe do that. “Of course,” I said.

Leaves became feathers. Branches stretched into wings. We flew through the clouds and passed the sun. So peacefully unfamiliar, I strangely knew that this was what heaven must be like. And stranger still, it was the first time I even let myself believe the possibility.

“Would you like to fly through it?”

“Heaven?” I asked.

“Birds can’t go to heaven,” I said.

“Would it be easier for you if I were an angel?”

I smiled as a flow of white surrounded me and we sailed further… beyond the sky, straight into love. I knew it was love, because it had no beginning and no end and I had no desire to look for either.

I don’t know how long I was there. There seemed no need for time.

I hadn’t even noticed how sure and steady my heart was beating, until the angel told me I had to go back.

“But I can’t go back to the ground. I can no longer walk in a forest without doors.”

“Would it be easier for you if I walked with you?”

“Angels can’t live in the forest,” I said, now surrounded by trees.

“Would it be easier for you if I lived in your heart?”

Knowing it would, the angel crawled inside of me and blanketed my heart. It beat sure again, without my urging.

The greens became greener and the browns more brown. I walked on familiar ground, that I had never really felt before.

Then I saw you, lost in a spot, no doubt you had frequented…looking forward and back, side to side.

“It’s a door,” I said.

“No,” were the tears you cried.

“Would it be easier for you if I went with you?” I asked.

Together we walked through the door in the forest.