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.


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Filled.

There is a substance I use once in a while when I make a frame with reclaimed wood. The wood is never perfect of course, and sometimes when I cut the angles, little pieces will chip away, and so to make them strong enough, I add this putty to fill in the gaps or cracks and it not only becomes stronger, it has more character, and a new life.

There are days that chip away at my heart, and I think, if I only I had some of that to fill it in. Strengthen it. Some days it takes longer than others, but once I let go of the Oh, why?’s and the poor me’s, (can you imagine a piece of wood whining to his carpenter?) I can see that I do have it – have had it all along, just what I need to fill in the cracks. Sometimes it comes in the form of words, sometimes a book, a conversation, a hand, a smile, all just love, finding the right shape, to crawl inside the tiny cracks and fill them.

And on those days, when I let myself be filled, I give thanks, not only for the love, but the cracks that let it in, the narrows that give it a home, the imperfections that make it my own.