Jodi Hills

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


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First, the field…


I have been commissioned to paint a field of poppies. Looks pretty green for poppies, you’re thinking. Yes, for now. But first the field… my grandfather taught me that, I suppose, on his farm. Each year he would take the browns and turn them into greens, and eventually into gold. “You can’t glamorize the dirt,” he said. It was work. So much work. Rocks needed to be picked. Dirt turned. Seeds planted. Watered. Care. So much care.


And so I paint the same way. I cut the wood. Stretch the canvas. Gesso. Prepare. Underpaint. Start with the field. My hands dirty. My heart full of promise that the flowers will come. Patient. Care. So much care.


Life is very messy. Terribly messy. My Uncle Nick passed away yesterday. I can’t glamorize that. I know he suffered. But I believe in the golden fields. Those of my grandfather. I believe they are there now. Together. Held with care. So much care.


Today, maybe, the poppies…


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I handed him my business card, the one with my grandfather on it. Is that Rueben? It’s hard to explain the joy I received with those three words. He knew my grandfather. Remembered his name. Said it out loud. Such a small thing I suppose, but oh, how those small things can swell with pride, and connection. Oh, how they can jump through those tiny cracks in your heart and completely fill them. My grandfather had 27 grandchildren, fifty-some great grandchildren. And on. It was hard to stand out in that crowd. To hold that farmer’s hand for more than a few minutes. But yesterday, in this Caribou, with this Dave’s recognition, I was holding it all in my hand, holding once again this overalled man’s hand, my mother’s father’s hand in mine, and we were all connected.


I have told you before, we called it “the farm.” (My grandfather’s place) “The” – as if it were the only one. And for us, it was. Yesterday, after Caribou, we went to the bank. I had met the teller once before a year ago. I asked to make a deposit. He said, “Aren’t you the artist?” The artist. “Yes,” I said, heart swelling still and again.


To see each other. To give each other the greatest gift of all. “The gift.” May we all be forever generous.


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Give

There was a slowness of time that gathered at the farm. We raced with youthful legs – legs that spun underneath us like on the cartoons – and yet the day seemed to last forever. Legs that carried no weight of worry, but only the sticky pink of dripped watermelon.
My grandfather didn’t play with us. He had work to do. The farm demanded it. And he did it. He didn’t join us for birthday parties. I don’t imagine he ever wrapped a present. But he gave me a gift I still open, almost daily.
He didn’t say much, but when he did, you listened. Pipe in one hand, the other smoothing out the line of his overalls. He spoke slowly. My father was gone. My mother was sad. My legs gave way to the weight of it all. “Focus on someone else,” he said. Someone else??? What was he talking about? My legs couldn’t move. “Give your attention, your time, anything, to someone else. Trust me.”
How did he know? Maybe because he gave his hands to the soil. Maybe because he had nine children. He knew.
I can get overwhelmed. Easily. And it can swallow my attention – me, me, me. And then I remember, I open the gift. That beautiful gift. Focus on something else. Someone else. And I am saved.
My legs are strong today. Strong enough to run beside you under the sun of this possible June day. Strong enough to give.