Jodi Hills

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


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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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Print your photos.

I “purchased” my first camera with Bazooka Joe gum wrappers. It was plastic and came in the mail. It lasted three days. Three glorious days. I took pictures of my banana seat bicycle, my sister’s dog – who jumped out of frame, my own feet – accidentally, the neighbor girls, and the summer grass. Film in pocket, I rode my bike to Peterson’s drug store and gave the roll of Kodak film to the smocked woman behind the counter. And I waited. And waited. When they called my mom to tell her that the prints were ready, I raced on my bike back to the drug store. Gave them three weeks worth of my allowance, and clutched the photos in my sweaty hands. Beautiful. The most beautiful photos I had ever seen. Because I took them. Me. With my Bazooka Joe camera. The plastic camera that I did in fact drop and drive over with my own Banana Seat bike. Still, perfection.

It’s so easy to take pictures now. I take them with my phone, my ipad, my actual camera. All digital, it’s so easy. No worries about mistakes, just take another. And another. I take hundreds, thousands. I swipe through them occasionally. It’s nice. Convenient. But not extraordinarily special. So I decided to have a few printed. I looked through my galleries and chose five. Just five. I made sure the quality was good. Uploaded them properly to the online store. And waited. And waited. I received 8 emails. They would arrive between the 5th and the 8th. They would arrive on the 9th… no, the 10th… no, the 15th, no, for sure on the 13th. The mailbox sat empty for two weeks. Until yesterday! They arrived! The most beautiful prints. Prints I could hold in my hands. Place in frames. Put up. Stand in front of. Remember the time. The love. And they were beautiful. They are beautiful!

I don’t often quote fictional movie characters, but this one is pretty good. It was Ferris Bueller who said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It’s not always convenient, this life, but oh how lovely, when we invest our time, our efforts. Make today. Every day. Important. Take your time. Make some memories. Print your photos.


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A blink of blue

We decided to get lunch before taking pictures at the lake. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we went into the restaurant. We had the most delicious sushi. We stepped outside under a gray cloud. Wow – that changed quickly. Still, we went to the lake. The sky, was a mixture of grays and whites. Full of movement and rumble. It wasn’t the beauty we had seen just 45 minutes ago, but it was beautiful! We walked along the shore. The golden leaves popped out against the gray. The lake’s sky, as if to thank us for still coming out in the ever changing weather, blinked a brilliant shot of blue. It was so magnificent! It lit the air and my heart with hope.

Life moves and changes – often faster than we’d like, but we still need to show up. Find the beauty. And forever cling to even the smallest blink of blue, the promise of hope. Can you see it? Can you feel it? It’s beautiful!!


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Pull over

Cezanne painted the Montagne Sainte-Victoire again and again. Living near it, I understand why. Every day it looks just a little different. Clouds, sun, sky, even my mood, can change the colors, change the view. But always, it is beautiful. Cezanne was lucky though, there weren’t the obstructions of today. Electrical lines, buildings, bridges and freeways can really distort the lines of vision.


I am always looking for that pure view. When I paint it, I can take out the obstructions, but it’s very difficult to see it, in all its majesty, without something clunking up the line. We have pulled the car over many times, thinking, this might be it, this might be the view, and then I take out the camera, and there it is, in the camera lens, that wire, that pole, that rooftop.


Yesterday, we were driving to Vauvenargues to see Dominique’s mother. On the way there, I caught a small glimpse of “maybe…maybe it’s the view…” So on the way home we did the ever hopeful pull-over, walked the side of the road, jumped over a ditch, and raised the camera. A sea of lavender rolled into the mountain under a sky of blue. Wait, what? No lines? No obstructions. Just nature. Just purples and violets and greens and blues and whites and grays. It was beautiful. And we got to see it. Smell it. Feel the lavender breeze against our skin, and the strength of the mountain, holding us together. Simply amazing.

I guess it’s the same with people. There are so many distractions. So many things that block our view. It’s so easy to turn away. Just pass by. But maybe if we took the time – really took the time – to see people in their own natural light, we would see what makes them amazing. We would see the beauty of all their changing days, both sunny and dark, and we would be gathered in.


What if I did that for you, and maybe you did that for me? Simply amazing. Again and again.