Jodi Hills

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


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Then the beauty…


The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD to carry water over 50 km (31 mi) to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes). It crosses the river Gardon near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard in southern France. The Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges, as well as one of the best preserved.

I can’t imagine that the people carrying the limestone each day thought, “Wow, this is really beautiful!” When you are knee-deep in the trenches, it’s hard to see. But it comes. The beauty comes.

After the Roman Empire collapsed and the aqueduct fell into disuse, the Pont du Gard remained largely intact due to the importance of its secondary function as a toll bridge. Change. Even the most valued things, someday will have to change. And the beauty comes.

We visited the Pont du Gard a few years ago. Today it is one of France’s most popular tourist attractions, and has attracted the attention of a succession of literary and artistic visitors.


I painted it as a reminder. A reminder for me, when I feel like I’m in the trenches. The work must be done. The beauty will come. Change is inevitable. The beauty will come.

I brush the dust from my knees and tell myself, “You have to live it, really live it, and then the beauty comes.”


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Of being carried.

I was watching something on netflix. I don’t even remember the movie. But an image I’ve seen a million times, on the screen, in real life, a young child being carried. And it struck me so – I wish I could remember that – that feeling of being lifted. Of being carried. Of being relaxed. Feet dangling. At ease. Held up. I have no memory of this. I’m not sure most people do.

I went to bed after the movie. Still a bit anxious from the news of the day. He knew that. I explained thoughts in fragments. Puzzles of emotions. He has a way of brushing the tear, not from my eye, no, he lets it fall to the bottom of my chin, and then catches it. Telling me it’s ok to feel. Allowing me to feel. And he’ll be there. He is there. And I know it. I release the air that worry tries to trap in my lungs, and I breathe. And breathe again. And I sleep. Feet dangling. I do remember.


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Trampling over.

As I type this, there is a song stuck in my head. It’s a very old song, but one I only recently listened to the actual lyrics. And they are horrible. And yet the song is replaying in my head. I won’t give it more attention by repeating the lyrics, but basically she sings, that “her man” is not good looking, not smart, cheats on her, beats her, and yet, she “loves him so.” Ish. Ish. Ish. Why are we still putting things like this out there? Things like this that get stuck in our heads. Things that repeat and repeat until we actually believe them. This has to stop.

Now, I can’t control what’s on the radio, on the television, or internet. To be honest, sometimes I can barely control what’s going on in my own head. I have been guilty of allowing “old tapes” to play (as my mother would say). Old tapes of people telling me “you can’t…” “you shouldn’t…” “you aren’t…” “you’re not…” But I have become stronger at knowing when to tune out. When to follow my own song. How to change the channel in my own mind. Learning each day to become better.

Because the better days don’t just come. We become. We become the better day. So I greet the morning sun and say, “Actually, I can…”


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An imperfect life.

When I walked into his new condo, downtown Minneapolis, I was immediately impressed. It was curated as only Ken could do. Right down to the last detail. Just as he had curated each show in Anne’s lovely gallery by Lake Minnetonka.  It smelled fantastic, that mixture of clean and possible — you know, the kind of light fragrance that just makes you want to dress better.  “Sex and the City” was looping on the television screen. The lighting — just enough to highlight the art and keep your skin tones youthful. The bathroom – manicured. The bedroom – so warm, pillowed. And there it was. Framed. On the shelf. My poem, “Again.”

Again, I live this day

for the first time.

I feel the possibility of this brand new sky, again,

and I make promises to the world and myself

that I will make the most of this moment

again and again.

And I make the same mistakes for the first time –

and I cry old tears – and smile new hopes –

and I try and I laugh and I hurt,

and I pray for answers to the same old questions,

asked again and again –

when the answer is still and again – love.

I am blanketed by the night sky

and dream sweet and scared

and happy again – to wake to this day

for the first time –

to live in the possibility of this brand new sky,

and love, like I never thought I would, again.

Whenever I see this poem, I think of him. He is living his life in fabulous Ken fashion. As flamboyant and imperfect as only he can. And I saw him — not the curated version, not his sparkles, or feathered hats, or flashes of orange and prescriptionless glasses — I saw him. 

This morning, I page through my book, “An imperfect life,” and I read this poem and others. Each a snapshot of people I’ve seen. I’ve known. And what an honor it is. I read, “Hit by a train,” and I am with my Aunt Kay. I read, “Grace sat with me,” and I am with my grandmother. “The truth about you” — my mother. “Big girl world” — my Aunt Karolynn. What a joy it is to see people. To know people. What a privilege when they invite you in. Ask you to stay. 

I breathe in the morning air. Ready. Again. Eat croissants with the one I love. Open. Again. To see the beauty of this imperfect day. “To live in the possibility of this brand new sky, and love!  

Good morning world! I see you!


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The short lens.


Yesterday, the first of January, we decided to take a walk up the small mountain close to our home. (In France we would call it a hill, but coming from Minnesota, it feels like a mountain.) The morning air was as fresh as a new year could bring. Going up the hill (mountain), the sun was out, but as we neared the top, we became one with the clouds and the fog. It was so beautiful!


We love to travel. We want to see and do everything! The world is really a magical place. So magical, that sometimes I forget to see what is right in front of us. I can get caught up in the what else, instead of focusing on the right here. So on this first day, this morning of the new year, I took the camera to celebrate the extraordinary of our every day!


And the universe was right there to help me focus on the right here. It brought the fog, as if to say, there’s no need to look that far ahead. Focus on what’s right in front of you. It’s so simple. But it’s true. I am one, for sure, who needs to learn that lesson again and again. I can get caught up in the awfulizing of the future – what if this happens, or that, or what will we do if they… It’s all out of my control. My vision. What I have is right in front of me. And if I take the time to see it, really see it — oh, it is beautiful! So very beautiful.


I want to see this day, this year, with the short lens. Live this life without worrying about everything that lies ahead. Without worrying beyond the fog, beyond what I don’t know. I want to see the beauty of the right here. Right now. And know that it is more than enough! More than I could ever capture. I walk joyfully, lightly, in the clouds, and give thanks.


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From my tiny cup.

When I was a child, I thought coffee was chunky. I remember my Grandma’s cup, when she reached the bottom, it was filled with the crumbs of every grandchild that pleaded, please can I just dunk my cookie, just once. And my mother’s cup, thanks to me, was the same. I know she didn’t like it, but for some strange and glorious reason, she loved me more.

I’ll say it again. It’s the little things, one might even say the crumbs, but oh they matter! Always have, always will.

People often tell me that they read my posts with their morning coffee. What a gift! To share with you this time. To gather in. Sit beside you at your table.

Every day, the world throws something at us. We are asked to survive the unsurvivable. Believe in the unbelievable. It is in these moments that I remember, I was not only loved, I was loved more. Taking a sip from my cup, I have everything, and so I begin.


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Days of thanks.

This past Labor Day, we visited Washington, D.C. It was a warm day — just enough heat to let down your defenses and let you feel at one with nature. No difference between your body temperature and the air surrounding you. We walked freely and easily to each monument. The stairs to Lincoln were long and high, and worth each sweaty step. I couldn’t help but notice each of us wore a warm and glistening glow, from the sun sure, the labor of the steps, but mostly, I think, from the hope and promise that sat before us.


With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it is good to remember how Lincoln transformed this holiday for us all. There is much controversy with the holiday beginnings, as there should be, I suppose, but Lincoln took the holiday and turned it into a day of thanks, for all to celebrate.
It was Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of the popular magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, who began using her columns to push for nationalizing Thanksgiving and celebrating it on the last Thursday in November. (A good woman behind every man as they say – and this time – out in front). She wrote a letter to Lincoln, stressing the urgency of making Thanksgiving “a National and fixed Union Festival” that would offer healing to a torn nation.

After receiving her letter, Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November as a day when we would give thanks “as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People,” including “my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands.”


This “sojourner” wants to give thanks, every day. I understand how blessed, I am, we are, to stand in the labor, the hope that each day brings.


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This little light of mine.

We got a new vacuum cleaner. It has a very bright headlight. It was amazing, and a little bit frightening, what I could see in the corners, under furniture — see what I had been missing. The great revealer, this light. It was so satisfying to know that I was actually making a good cleaning. It felt good, and I found myself vacuuming with enthusiasm. I can’t go back now, to the old vacuum, the old way…I know too much.

I suppose it’s that way with everything. At least I would hope so. But in so many ways, I think we are failing. In the few minutes of news a day that I allow myself (my heart can’t take too much), I see, what I can only call filth. The absolute worst of us, making the same mistakes over and over. And we allow it. We shine the light on it, and still refuse to see it. We have to do better than this. We know better. Right and wrong are not that difficult to see.

Get your house in order, they say. And I guess that’s right. I will do my best in my little corner of the world. Try to make it as beautiful as I can. It was what we were taught, wasn’t it? This little light of mine? I’m gonna let it shine.


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Fizz.

An Italian Fizz cocktail, with Dutch tulips, in front of the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France – this was yesterday’s lunch. Of course we had a few healthy things like calamari, fish, and carrots. But sometimes (all the time) you have to feed your soul, and not just your stomachs.


It pleases me to see how the drink matches the tulips. The colors meld into each other. This is so satisfying. This was not vacation, but a Sunday, a day — a day that could have easily been ordinary. They all can be, I guess…but we need to give ourselves permission to enjoy. It’s so easy to let the days just go by. But we’re not given that many. Each one is priceless. I don’t want to let any of them slip through the cracks, my fingers, my attention.


I don’t know what colors today will bring. From my desk, I can see the golden leaves of the apricot tree — shining against the evergreen of the pines. They tell me to look around. Look within. There is so much to enjoy. See everything. Feel everything. Fill your heart. Feed your soul. Taste this life!


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Perfection knows no time constraints.

When I focus only on my own tiny heart, I can feel badly that she doesn’t remember me, my mother-in-law. It’s only natural, I suppose. And when I say the words out loud, it is only natural. There is no malice. Only nature. She has done her job. For 96 years. She has cared and nurtured and lived. When I arrived she welcomed me. Learned about me. Clapped for my paintings. Sometimes more than once. Knew me. And that was perfect. In its time. It is now my turn to welcome her, again, for the first time. Welcome this period in her life, not with anger (How could you forget?), not with sadness (Why don’t you remember?) but with grace (I’m happy to see you.)


I have climbed the Sainte Victoire. The mountain doesn’t remember me, but oh, how I remember each step. Each stumble coming down. It is my job, my joy to remember. I remember kissing at the Eiffel Tower. Wandering the relics of Rome. The feel of the Mediterranean washing over me. I remember my grandfather’s overalls. My grandmother’s hands. It is my job to remember. To share the stories. Pass them on. Give them life. Until one, day, in one language or another, someone might carry them for me. Carry each kiss and stumble. Until they can only pass them on again.


And it will all be as it should. Filled with grace, this perfectly imperfect gift of time.