Jodi Hills

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


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Rose Ann and the Sainte Victoire

I’m not sure I would have even met her if my brother hadn’t married her daughter. And yet, with this one choice, not made by me, she became family. She was just always there. My brother was now TomandRenae, (not just Tom), and Renae’s mom was now RoseAnn. As familiar as that, in one instant. She included us in every holiday meal. It took awhile for our unsteady hearts to believe that we weren’t being included, but we just belonged. This is what she gave us. How can that be anything other than family?


When I say her name, an image of a nurse comes into my head. The old-fashioned kind, (I don’t mean that in a bad way) – you know the image, white uniform, white stockings, white shoes, even the paper hat. There was something solid about that uniform. Something to lean on. I guess that is RoseAnn. Something solid. Something to lean on. Sometimes that can seem unapproachable, all this strength, but when you need it, and oh, sometimes we really need it, it’s good to stand beside all of that white.
And there are surprises. Moments of vulnerability. An unexpected softness that invites you in. When the uniform is off. And we’re just people. Just gathering from the land of misfit toys for a wedding, or a thanksgiving. And it is something to believe in. Because you’ve seen every angle.


The first iconic image I passed in France was the Sainte Victoire. The mountain that Cezanne painted again and again. This giant white rock sits just outside of our home. Every day when I pass it, I say hello. Thank it for being solid. Constant. Beautiful. Even on rainy days, when the sides are dark, or when the clouds can make it almost disappear, I know it is there. That is comfort. Had I not met Dominique, I may never have known this certainty.


Small decisions join us. Bring us together. And we are stronger because of it – because of them. I wave to the Sainte Victoire this morning. I wave to RoseAnn. We are all in this together. We greet each other. We support each other. We lean on each other. It is beautiful. It is strong. It is something to believe in. 


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A case for dreams.

When I was six, my family went to the Wisconsin Dells. This is about the most exotic place a Chevy Malibu could take a family of five from Alexandria, Minnesota. I know there was water, probably rides, but my clearest memory is of the pencil case my mom bought for me in the gift shop. It was a white vinyl case, shaped like a giant pencil. There was a zipper just where the eraser would begin on a normal pencil. Inside, more pencils. Oh, the possibilities! Imagine that, pencils inside a pencil. This was indeed the most exotic place!

The first museum I visited as an aspiring adult was the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Inside was the giant portrait of Chuck Close. It was magnificent. He says in painting this portrait, “I think I was trying to find out who I was as an artist.” I think at that time, I was just trying to find out who I was as a human. I wasn’t sure how I was connected here, in this place, with this art, but I felt it — once again, I felt it — the possibilities! My pockets were mostly empty, save for these brewing dreams, but I had enough money to buy two pencils. One represented what they created. One represented what I could create. I named them, “Did” and “Could.”

Through the years, I have purchased pencils from The Chicago Art Institute, The MET, MOMA, Van Gogh’s Museum, The Georgia O’Keefe museum… The Louvre! And everywhere in between. I have purchased pencils from book stores, universities, anywhere the dreams seem to hang in the air and call things out as possible.

That’s what pencils are to me – the possible! Each pencil tells me that Dreams have come true – Dreams will come true.

At my desk, next to my portrait of Chuck Close, and a small collection of pencils, I tell you that what you dream matters. Gather in that dream. Grasp it in your chubby little hands of youth, and hold it until your fingers gnarl around it with warmth and gratitude. Did and Could. Can and Do! Wisconsin Dells and the Louvre! Oh, the possibilities!