Jodi Hills

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

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The in-betweens.

She was sitting just a table away from the band. Was it a wedding? In between the ceremony and the dance? To see her sitting there at the table, my not-yet mother, early twenties, I know her. One eye on the other woman at the table. One ear on the music. Size tens slightly tapping under the table. Ready for the dance.

It wouldn’t have been “old time” dancing then. Just dancing. Surely there would have been a polka — I see the tuba. But she was good at the in betweens, my mother. Teaching me that what we had, was exactly enough. It was easy as a child to get caught up in the next of it all. Rushing through Halloween. Making a path with the candy to lead to Thanksgiving. Clear the table. Get the dishes done so we can decorate. Wrap the gifts. Shake the gifts. Unwrap them. Happy New Year! But she taught me to enjoy the middle.

We both loved to read, so she compared it all to a book. Those center pages, when you are so immersed in the story, you don’t want to stop reading, but you don’t want it to end. This was the glorious part of living. This is where I want to live. Still.

It’s still easy for me to get caught up in the what ifs and whens of it all, but then I look at the photo. And I sit in the moment just before the dance. Breathe in the music. I will be happy. Right here. Right now.

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Where bluebirds fly.

For me it’s like meditation. To focus on just the canvas. The paint. My hand. Put down what I need to see. What I need to feel. And let it come to life.

The bluebird has long been seen as the harbinger of happiness. Its origins may date back thousands of years. In Chinese mythology. Native American folklore. European fairy tales. The bluebird is everywhere. I suppose we all want to be happy. We would do well to remember this.

It wasn’t until recently that I noticed it. I’ve sung it a thousand times, “Somewhere over the rainbow.” But it became so clear when I was painting. Humming along. “…where bluebirds fly.” Maybe it’s because I was a child when I watched The Wizard of Oz. Maybe it was because it was in my grandparents’ living room. But with this childlike brain, I thought, if the bluebirds were always spreading this happiness, they had to fill themselves with it, go somewhere to gather it in — over the rainbow, for example. And if they did, allow themselves this time, then they would have something to give. 

I want to be that bluebird. I hope it is in us all to want to spread this joy. But to do that, we need to allow ourselves the time to gather it in. For me that is painting. For you, it might be baking, or gardening. Reading. Or actual meditation. Wherever your “over the rainbow” is, you need to allow yourself the time to visit. Gather all the happiness in your beautiful wings. Then, only then, I think, can you truly fly.

So if they ask you today, “Where are you going?” Smile, and reply, “Where bluebirds fly.”

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I went for a walk this morning.  The sky was mostly gray. The ground wet from last night’s rain. I listened to a few podcasts for inspiration. The words were good, but they didn’t really leap into my heart.  So I kept walking. Looking. Turning corners, passing trees. And then the prettiest little bird flew directly in my path, landing in the tree that guards our garage. The most elegant mix of blues and yellows. I know that bird. I have painted that bird.  It was, in fact, the first bird I painted in France.  The first bird I heard in France. With a song, so delicate, so lovely, saying, “Every day she decides to be happy, and sings.”  

I was visiting with my mother on the phone yesterday. Remember when I told you that I know my grandmother’s handwriting, and how important that is? Well, maybe even more importantly, I know my mother’s laugh. It starts almost as a little chuckle and grows into the most delightful giggle. In this laugh she is young, and possible and cancer free, and she sings. She sings a song so beautiful, that when I start to laugh with her, it becomes a dance.  Because it was just yesterday when she felt the breezes from Lakeside Ballroom, dreamed of Frank Sinatra, gave her heart, smelled the youth of her children, broke her heart, and trusted her heart again…It was just today when the wind brushed her skirt, and she hoped and twirled like a little girl.

What a gift she gives me with her song. What a gift we all have been given – another day!  Another day!!!!  Be happy!  Sing it out loud!