Jodi Hills

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


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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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Lazy Susan.

Whoever this Susan was, I liked her. And she couldn’t have been all that lazy, I thought, because her cupboard was always full. I thought Susan was the one who bought all the candy in that cupboard. Whenever we wanted a treat at my Grandma’s house, she would point to the corner cupboard and say Lazy Susan. My eager chubby brain and fingers didn’t take the time to analyze that this was just what the spinning rack was called — the spinning rack that held all my grandma’s candy. I liked believing some magical woman named Susan kept her cupboard full. Like maybe she worked directly with the Tooth Fairy. 

Something was lost when I learned there was no Susan fairy, nor Tooth, but I gained something better — the knowledge that I had a grandma who would keep her cupboard filled with treats – easy access treats – on the bottom shelf – the bottom spinning shelf – all for us to enjoy. And she didn’t buy what some called the “grandma treats” like hard mint candies, or burnt-orange peanuts. No she had Slo-pokes, and Black cows. Sugar Daddies. Toasted marshmallows. Chocolate bars and more chocolate bars. 

And as I got older. More truths came out. More losses. But one thing remained constant. The easy access of things given at my grandparent’s farm. The easy access of open spaces to run in. Secret rooms to hide in. Endless fields that said, be yourself. An open cupboard that said, keep believing in magic. And a love that remained full. Always within reach.


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Little dancer.

Two weeks ago when we arrived in New Orleans, just before the whirlwind of Mardi Gras had started, we were, for the most part, alone. Proof of this, we walked up to the Cafe du Monde and got an order of beignets in one minute. No line. Delicious in so many ways. We left New Orleans to travel the south, and returned yesterday to the crowds, donned in beads and noise and purples and greens and golds. The line for the Cafe du Monde stretched around the block. We smiled at each other, knowing, that just a moment before, it was ours. We tasted it without the validation of a long line.

While the crowds marched through the French quarter, we took a drive. I’m not sure what led us to the house where Degas lived for a brief time just before Impressionism took hold — I say I’m not sure, but I have a pretty good idea — our hearts usually lead us — maybe it was the French flag, the statue of the little dancer girl — there was no crowd to follow, no line to get in, just the feeling of creation in the air, and we pulled over immediately. This master of fine art, lived here. Here. Maybe it was just a brief moment, but we could feel it. And it was ours.

My grandparents lived in a farm house. No one will line up to see it, but I remember each door. Each entryway. I remember the smell of damp coats hanging. The creaks of the stairs. The sink full of dishes. The sign on the kitchen counter that read, “I should have danced all night.”

My mother will be moving out of her apartment soon. Some will say it was just four walls. But inside it was coffee and conversation. Wine and dreams. Fashion shows and laughter. Tears of tenderness. Home. Here – no crowds, no lines, but with hearts fully validated, oh, how we danced!