Jodi Hills

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

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Travel day.

Today we will be traveling from Marseille to Paris. Paris to New York. New York to Minneapolis. The fact that I get to type words like travel and Paris and New York and Minneapolis, and that I have stories from each place, memories, footprints, even artprints…this fills me!

Maybe it was from Ernest Hemingway that I first learned about this “feast.”

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway, to a friend, 1950

My “lucky enough” was that I always found a way to feast, even with what some would call absolutely nothing. But what they couldn’t see was I had words. I had hands. I had paint. I had an imagination. This took me everywhere — long before I stepped onto a plane. And it has stayed with me. Hemingway was right. It does stay with you – if you carry it, nurture it, give thanks for it – every day!

Zipping up the luggage now. Giving thanks. Time to feast! Bon appétit!

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Pull over fantastic!

There is a Prada store alongside the road near Marfa, Texas. Prada Marfa is a permanent sculptural art installation by artists Elmgreen and Dragset. The installation, in the form of a freestanding building—specifically a Prada storefront—was inaugurated on October 1, 2005.

I suppose it can be argued as a statement against consumerism, but that was all lost on me, when we saw it, in this middle of nowhere…the extreme unlikeliness of it all, it just seemed so beautiful.

A picture came up in my photo memories — me, standing in front of a Christmas store window in Paris. That is “pull over to the side of the road” fantastic — the unlikeliness of it all. I mean, I was born in Alexandria, Minnesota! It took me years to see it – but what a gift – to begin there. A gift to begin with (you probably are thinking I would have said “nothing” here) but to begin with desire, hopes and dreams and the belief that if I kept driving, driving through this empty dessert, something magical would happen — and that, is not nothing! That is something! And something magical did happen! Continues to happen! Every day! You just have to be willing to search for it, long and hard, and pull over to enjoy it when it does.

I remember it was an extremely cold day in Paris. The winter winds were blowing. Most people walked with their heads down, bracing the cold and the wind, having seen it all before. But this was Christmastime, in Paris, and I couldn’t keep my head down. I could barely keep my feet on the ground. I stopped in front of each window. Big smiles – the unlikeliness of it all! The magic of this season, this life! I am the Prada store in Marfa. That is my Christmas miracle – every day!

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The Eiffel Tower doesn’t need me.

When you say the word France, people immediately think of Paris, and not without good reason.  Paris is a magnificent city. Magical really.  The Eiffel tower, the Louvre, Montmartre and Sacré Coeur. It is, as Hemingway said, clearly a “moveable feast”!  It is fashion and history and artists and writers. Coffee on sidewalks. Croissants and romance. It is Notre Dame. It is what was, and what will be again.

But Paris is not France, not all of it. There is so much more.  Today, I’d like to take you to the lengthy, rugged coastline of Brittany.  Here you will meet French people, not tourists.  Here, they will wave to you (this doesn’t sound like much, but my Minnesota-nice loved it).  Their houses, are not palaces, but they are manicured.  Each small yard is covered with flowers. I saw a woman on her hands and knees with a scissors, cutting the grass. These people are proud and welcoming. We went for lunch at a small restaurant with white tablecloths and a bowl of caramels (the taste of Brittany) for dessert. I asked the waitress where we could purchase these caramels – I loved them! She stepped away from the table, I thought maybe she didn’t understand. She returned with both hands forming a bowl filled with these delicious caramels and she dropped them in my purse. My first (non-family) gift in France.

We went to an antique store, browsed the history, our mouths filled with butter and sugar. I was drawn to a cup filled with old paint brushes. Green handles worn from hopeful hands and spotted with paint’s proof.  I held them up and asked how much they were?  He said something I didn’t understand. My husband said they were free for me – gratuit! I held them to my heart – what was and what will be.

The next store I bought a sketch pad and began painting with my experienced brushes. Together, we sat at the beach and tried to capture this rugged beauty that I had never seen before. This worn in warmth of a place, that maybe needed me to tell its story, as much as I needed to feel it.  An exchange of beauty. This is not the Eiffel tower, but believe me, this too, is France. Bienvenue!