Jodi Hills

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


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Stringing joy.

My office smells like the cinema this morning. I began stringing popcorn for the Christmas tree we have yet to purchase. I usually don’t start decorating until the day after Thanksgiving, but technically, I thought, this wasn’t really decorating, it was just pre-decorating. Truth be told, I also started hot gluing the strings on the pine cones from our yard. Still, only the “pre” stage.


I love Christmas! I mean, I really love it! And I want to be patient. And stringing popcorn, what an exercise in patience! I have a memory of popcorn being one big chunk of white fluff at the top that you could easily slide the needle through — but not our popcorn. Our popcorn pops with a flurry, in some sort of neurotic burst that makes the accessible part – almost inaccessible. But I love the look. The smell. The challenge of it all. So I strung, bit by bit, through the tears of watching Love Actually for the 15th time.


I will never apologize for feeling. I want to feel everything! And when there is joy – I will do my best to elongate it! Stretch it out, string it along, kernel by neurotic kernel. You don’t need my permission, but I will offer it anyway, wrap it in colorful, scent-filled words, telling you to do it – find what you love and do it! This day and every day – ’tis the season.


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Pont du Gard

The most visited ancient monument in France, listed as a world heritage site by Unesco, the Pont du Gard aqueduct remains one of humankind’s great masterpieces. A marvel of Antiquity and a true technical feat.

48 metres high, it has three vertical rows of arches: 6 on the lowest level, 11 on the second level and 35 on the third and top level. Its upper part reaches a length of 273 metres (originally 360 metres when there were twelve extra arches). It served as an aqueduct until the 6th century before becoming a tollgate in the Middle Ages and finally a road bridge from the 18th to 20th century.  

Perhaps even more impressive, an olive tree lives, over 1,000 years old, next to this masterpiece — a masterpiece in and of itself.  

Nobody takes the time to plant an olive tree anymore. (Or bothers to build real bridges.) You need patience with an olive tree. You can plant it and wait five years for the olives, maybe twelve. 

Yes, twelve years of nurturing, watering and pruning. The reward is not instant. Ah, instant gratification. I know, I get impatient too. But I’m trying, really trying, with my life, to plant an olive tree. Trying to give without worrying about the pay-off, the reward. 

Maybe it’s not about the fruit. Maybe it’s about the tree. Maybe it’s just about the growth itself. I want to have the patience, the beauty, the stamina, the strength of an olive tree. And so I will put in the time to learn, to love, and to live, without measuring the sun, only feeling its warmth. I offer this to you as well. I am here for you. 

No abandonings. For you, for me, I’m planting an olive tree. I am building a bridge. I am taking the time.


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Remembering to fly

I could see him from my window, this bird. He was at the bottom of the large pine. A tiny little thing, dwarfed by this massive tree. He started climbing. Hopping really. Up, so slowly. I could hear the little click of his feet (claws?) grab onto the bark. Click, hop. Click, hop. He wasn’t making much progress. I had never seen a bird make so much effort, struggle, to climb a tree. There was an alternative… I kept watching. He was about a quarter of the way. Click, hop, Click, hop. I wondered when he was going to realize it. You know, that he could just fly. Half way up, there it came – the realization – oh, yeah, I have wings. And in two seconds he was at the top. Then floating in the sky. What a relief! How delightful – I could see it in his wings.


Yesterday, after waiting two and a half hours from his initial phone call saying he was near, the FedEx man called and said in fact he wasn’t going to come at all. Like it was just some option. Like when you call for a pick-up, he’ll swing by if he has the chance…. Aaargh. So frustrating. I got upset. It happens all the time. The anger was building inside of me. Rising. Climbing. Click, hop!!!! CLICK, HOP! It took about 15 minutes until I decided to jump into the pool. The water was lifting. I started doing laps. The strokes started to release it all. I was getting lighter. In the pool, I started to fly.


I had thought the bird so silly for not realizing the lesson he had learned so long ago. Then I saw myself. How easy it is to forget. And so we live and learn, sometimes the same lessons over and over, again and again… yesterday’s lesson — patience.


This morning the sun is shining in a bright blue sky! I hope I remember to fly!


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The patience of croissant.

The patience of croissants.


I eased into baking.  Perhaps I had been waiting for permission, or an invitation into the kitchen, and both finally came when I moved to France.  


I started slowly, a few cookies.  And I always searched for the kind of recipe that didn’t have to be chilled.  I couldn’t possibly wait an hour. I’m not sure what I was in a hurry for, but I was – once started, it had to be done!  I slowly branched out into those that needed to be chilled.  I must admit, at first I didn’t chill the dough for the minimum of one hour, but tried putting the dough in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Oh, patience.  Or was it control?  Either way, I slowly loosened the reins and as the dough chilled, so too did I.  


I started making bread.  This took more patience, half a day.  Then brioche, a full day.  Then croissant, two days.  Two days!  I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t in control. And I was fine.  The dough was in control. It knew what needed to be done and I went along with it.  Rolled with it. Let it chill in between. And rolled with it again.  The first time our home had the scent of a boulangerie, I knew it was worth it! This was the reward. A fresh buttery croissant, that came from hands, both in the work, and the letting go. 
I often have to tell myself to breathe. To do the work, and then let go.  The work has always come more easily to me, but I’m learning each day how to trust the process, trust the time given, trust the “dough.” With that, the process has too become the reward, not the punishment. And the result, each day becomes, well, just a little more delicious!  

Here comes the sun!  Bon appétit!


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A rose, by any other name…

In my late teens, I had to have surgery on my jaws.  The only place that was doing this procedure was in Fargo, North Dakota.  We lived two hours away, in Alexandria, Minnesota.  My mom drove a light blue mini station wagon. We had no GPS, no cell phone, and no real sense of direction, on the road, and barely in our daily lives.  
My mom set out to find the hospital. We had an address and the light of day, but soon lost both.  As the sun was setting, we drove around block after block. Nothing familiar. Nothing welcoming. The sun kept sinking and so did our spirits. “We’re never going to find it,” my mother said.  “We’re lost.” She kept driving. Slowly. “They’re never going to find us.” Still driving. “We’re going to die in North Dak… “and she stopped. Suddenly beaming.  “Oh, look!” she shouted, “there’s Herbergers!”  And we were saved.  
Herberger’s was our familiar. Our welcome.  To those of you who didn’t grow up in the midwest, it was the Department Store. The gathering place. The anchor of the mall.  It was home.  I am not ashamed to admit that it saved us so many times. It was a distraction. A diversion. A place to go behind a dressing room curtain and be whomever you wanted to be.
Now this retail therapy may be more American than I knew. Here in France, you have to anticipate what you need on Thursday, get it Friday, because Saturday is crazy busy, Sunday is closed, and Monday is closed.  Yes, Monday.  I remember being disoriented when the American stores were closed on Easter Sunday, so this was a radical change.  
It took a minute to detox, but certainly I have. Things are slower. Not better or worse, just different. I have learned a different patience (because it comes in all forms). I have found a different perspective. Closed on Mondays was not going to change, so I had to adapt. Now I look at it as a relief – “Well, we don’t have to go anywhere today, because we can’t.  What will I focus on? I should make something.”  And so I do.  Not just art, not just stories, anything. Here is my chance to make anything. Let’s make cookies. Oh, dear, we have to refrigerate for an hour? I can’t possibly wait that long. That’s how I first started. Still in a rush. Now I bake croissants. They take two days. Two days, imagine that. And worth every roll of the pin.  
Time really is nothing. It is what we do with the time. We are offered, once again a new perpective in this Covid time. It is different. It is challenging. But in this time, if we look hard enough, we will find what truly matters, we will see something, the light, and we will be saved.  

**The logo for Herberger’s was a rose – hence the title.