Jodi Hills

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


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Hope chest.

Before I knew what it was, I began filling mine. I had overheard some older cousins and aunts talking about it around my grandmother’s kitchen table. From what I knew of hope, you couldn’t actually see it, nor did I see any physical “chests” within this conversation, so I took it literally, as children often do, and assumed it was my own chest, the chest that housed my heart, and this I thought, was the place to put all the hopes that I could carry.

I walked around the farm that day. And I listened. My grandfather hoped for rain. I put it in my chest. My mother hoped for peace and an appetite. They fit in nicely. It felt exciting to fill my hope chest. I hoped my older cousins would pay attention to me. I smiled and put it in my chest. I felt safe, and almost powerful. And surprisingly, lighter. With everything I put in, I just became lighter. This was the real treasure, I suppose, learning that hope will never weigh you down.

Even when I learned the so-called truth of these hope chests years later, I stuck with my own version. I went to France with almost no belongings. They would have cost a fortune to ship. But what the airlines didn’t know, didn’t weigh, was “my hope chest” — my hope chest that was completely full, bursting even. Loaded with every story, every life event, every day survived, every smile, every dream — every, well, hope really — all still within me. 

And in my hope chest, there are no expiration dates. Everything remains fresh, light, and new. A small cage of ribs protects them easily. They are mine. As long as I’m willing to carry. 

You have one too, you know. Oh, how I encourage you to use it. Fill it. Walk with it daily. And see it for the real and only treasure there is – a heart filled with hope.


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Acts of light.

I just finished watching the movie Power of the Dog on Netflix. The young cowboys of 1925 worked the cattle farms in the shadow of the mountains. I imagine, without maps, or education, they had no idea what, if anything, existed beyond the giant barrier. “What do you suppose it is?” one asked the other, as the sun lit the mountain.

Emily Dickinson lived all her life in the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts. When she died in 1886, her sister Lavinia found a single box that contained hundreds of poems. In all of them, she envisioned worlds far beyond the apparent simplicity of her daily life — looking for acts of light.

I don’t know if it is luck, chance, fate, that gives us our place in the world. We all begin somewhere, at some time. I guess the key is to be forever curious, no matter where we are, what time we are in. We don’t know what lies ahead. But I’d like to believe it will be forever well lit.

So today, I hang the Christmas lights. I hang the lights to welcome the songs and the gathering. To welcome the questions and the faith. To welcome the joy of the season, and of the coming year. Forever envisioning the worlds within and beyond my simple life. I welcome the comfort, the warmth, the kindness of simple acts of light.


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Light source.

To create depth in a painting, you have to create shadows. Reveal the imperfections. And the only way to do this is to identify your light source. Where is the light coming from? This can be tricky when you’re first learning. That light seems to be bouncing everywhere, but really it’s just your hands, or your head. With practice, as I suppose with everything, it becomes so much easier. The light hasn’t changed, but your way of seeing it has. It becomes so much more obvious. So much easier to capture on canvas. And it wants to be revealed — the light — it wants to help you create a painting of depth and meaning.


Even as I type this, it becomes so obvious, that the same is true for the heart. It wants to be revealed. Oh, how I have stumbled in the darkness, but I found my way. I have let my heart reveal all my imperfections, but more importantly, all the light!


They say there are only two real sources, love and fear. And that fear can be a powerful one, but today, and everyday, I will grab my brush and my heart, and choose my source — my light…I will choose love.