Jodi Hills

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

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Daring greatly.

It seemed easy to make friends in school. They sat you next to about 30 options. Gave you subjects to talk about. Offered common enemies like rules and detention. Supplied the games and gyms. Put you in pools and on buses, all together.

And that was enough for most. But it seemed like there should be more. “Wasn’t there more to it? Wasn’t it all supposed to mean something?” I asked my best friend in my yellow bedroom on Van Dyke Road. Cindy thought about it. I mean, she didn’t laugh, but really thought about it, and I suppose that’s why we were friends. We understood each other. Even in our preteens, we sought more than they could possibly offer at Washington Elementary, or even Central Junior High.

We both agreed that there had to be more. But how did you get it? That was the bigger question. I searched for years. I can’t tell you the exact moment. They came in whispers. Small bits. I wrote words for my mother. And we connected deeply. A poem for my grandfather’s funeral. And I was a part of a family. I began to expose my heart. I suppose I stopped looking for what could be offered to me, and began to offer what I had. And it was bigger! Better! It meant something! It meant all and more than I had dreamed of in shades of yellow. This is how I would connect. How I still connect.

He said I could pick out anything from his wood pile. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but for me it was priceless. A way for us to connect. And I had a long way to travel to catch up to this life-long friend of my husband. He helped me load the back of our car.

I cut the first strips of wood to stretch the canvas. No plans yet of what to paint, that would come. It always does if I just give it a path. I gessoed the canvas. And began in blue. The sea and sky and sand opened before me. The boats and nets and the fishermen — all daring greatly.

I searched my newly attained wood pile for the longest, straightest pieces. Sanded each length. And sanded again. And again. I cut them to length. Nailed them with the rusted hammer — once belonging to my husband’s father. Squared. Stained. Sanded again. Cut the strips for the backing. Placed the painting inside. It should also be mentioned that Michel, the man who let me pick freely from his pile of wood, was, for the majority of his life, a fisherman. A fisherman, I pause and smile. The blank canvas knew, perhaps even before I did. And this is how we connect. Connect our hearts. Our stories. By doing the work.

There is more. There is always more. But it won’t be given. We will have to search and throw our nets out to sea, continuously doing the work, ever daring greatly.


The women who saved the fish.

Jason Reynolds is an accomplished American author of novels and poetry. I listened to him speak about an old high school teacher. This teacher told the students that they were going to have a class pet. They all scoffed, especially when he told them it was going to be a fish. The eye rolls were audible. This wasn’t a science class. They all thought it was rather ridiculous. He told them that there was only one rule. They listened. They could never touch the fish. “No matter what,” he said, “you are never allowed to touch this fish or you will be suspended.” No one really reacted because, they thought, there would never be a reason to touch it. Days went by. They studied their humanities lessons. One day, at the beginning of the class, this teacher walked over to the tank and took the large fish out and threw it on the floor. The class was in shock! What was he doing? Was he insane? Mouths opened, but nobody moved. They could hear in their heads, “You must never touch this fish or you will be suspended.” The fish gasped for air. Flopping and pleading on the floor. Two of the high school girls couldn’t take it anymore and raced to the front of the room and picked up the fish, putting it back in the tank. Everyone sighed in relief. Surely this had to be a good thing. The teacher smiled at them. “Please go to the principal’s office,” he said. No no no, the class was saying. They saved the fish. “Please go now. You are both suspended.” They could hardly believe their ears. “Please go, keep walking” he said, “but hold your heads up high on the way. You did the right thing.” They left. “It’s not always easy to do the right thing,” he told the class. “But it still has to be done.” The future author said he felt nothing but shame…why had he just sat there, along with almost everyone else…”

In this experiment, it was always the women who saved the fish. Sacrificed themselves for the greater good. I have seen it throughout my life. My grandmother. My mother. Women all around me. Even during the times they were the fish themselves, they saved each other. Whatever challenges you are facing today, hold your heads up high, and keep walking.