Jodi Hills

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

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Body and Soul.

It was the only sheet music I remember seeing on my grandparent’s organ – “Body and Soul.” It didn’t seem strange then, this large instrument. When I think of it now, they were probably the only farmers in the area to have an organ in their living room. 

They bought it for my Aunt Sandy. She was the youngest of nine, this Dairy Princess, and when she asked for something, she usually got it. So there was an organ in their living room. I never heard her play it. Nor anyone else – not seriously. Most of us thought of it like a big toy. One cousin would crawl underneath the bench and play the foot pedals by hand, while another cousin or two pressed the keys with as much flare as previously seen on the Lawrence Welk Show — something that also seemed to be on continuously in my grandparent’s living room. 

My Aunt Sandy has passed. I don’t know where the organ ended up. But the song lives on. I heard it this morning, on the radio, in France. Body and Soul. 

We are scattered — those of us that began on this farm — scattered by jobs, and hopes and dreams, scattered by loves and heartbreaks and loves again. Bit by bit, we puzzle together the pieces of our own lives, string together the notes of our own songs. And it takes a long time — a long time to build a soul. 

I thought, when I was young, with fingers glued against the keys, that we would be given all the answers. And that would be that. But we, like everyone I suppose, were not given the answers, but options. And somewhere between field and keyboard, I suppose, we made our way. 

The song fills my heart this morning. Along with the coffee. The conversation above the tune. Joyfully, not complete, but beginning. Again. What a pleasure it is to begin. The sun comes through the window, and another piece of my soul fits together.

The music never ends.

building a soul framed web.jpg

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Dig deep

We have a large garden. Which means we also have a lot of weeds. And oh, the strength of weeds. They seem to be able to survive anything. Their only weakness comes after the rain. When the rain soaks the ground around them, everything loosens. Lets go. And it is so much easier to pull out the weeds. From the roots. Get rid of them.

I have this thought that maybe we’re the same. I think it’s ok to cry. For me, when I need to loosen the fear, or anger, maybe the sadness, I let the tears flow. And all those weeds around my heart start to loosen. I’m able to pluck them out and focus on what I have. What is growing inside of me. Growing every day. And it is beautiful!

I watched the Andy Griffith show as a kid. (Still do when I get the chance) It always made me laugh. One day Aunt Bea arrived at the Sheriff’s office, very upset. Crying and breathing heavy, Deputy Fife, in his Fife-like way, huddled around her, saying… “We should loosen something… what can we loosen?” It’s so funny, but so true.

If you need to loosen something today, I’m with you. If you need to let it rain, I’ll cry with you. And if you need to dig deep, I’ll grab my shovel. We’re in this together — in this beautiful garden together! Let’s grow.


Building a soul

I try to create content every day that “matters.”  But does it?  When I see channels on Youtube featuring vases that sell for one dollar, and they get a million views, I really wonder how do I compete with that???  But I guess I’m not competing with that. Never can and never will.  

So what matters?  It’s very different for everyone. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a haul from IKEA. They are very good at what they do.  I, too, have wandered through the maze and been lured by a golden garbage can, or a one dollar candle. And better than anyone, they can fill a house — but how do I fill my soul?

I am the curator of my soul. I search through the alphabet and gather the letters to form the words that make the sentences that create the stories that fill my brain that leak out my ears and turn the corners of my mouth. I spread the colors that join my brushes that collide with the canvas to form the shapes that become my heart’s familiars and beat with pure joy. I search the scrap pile for pieces of wood that get cut into lengths that get nailed into angles that gather in the painted words and painted figures and hold them with a bold strength and a comforting smell that only cut wood can carry. 

It takes a long time to build a soul. And I guess that’s what I’m making, aren’t I?  What I’m building — a soul.  So does it matter.  To me it does. Will it get a million views?  I doubt it. Will it save me, more than a million times?  Oh, yes. I think it already has.  

Once you know your vision, your core, your strengths, your special gift — the only thing left to do is live it. Success can come in every degree, but remember, the work itself — whatever it is: the writing, the painting, the dancing, the living of your uniquely gifted being — can give you everything.

You know best for you. You know what will fulfill you. You set the bar for yourself.

Others’ successes do not hurt you. Be happy for them. Others’ failures do not lift you. They may not even feel they’ve failed. They get to decide that for themselves.

Find joy in the doing. The being. You decide who you are. And the definition is decided by you. A writer writes. A painter paints. You are not defined by awards or titles, or even “likes.”  You are defined by you. Enjoy that. Every day!


Yes, and …

In the world of improvisation, (which is really just living), the main rule is that when offered a line, an opportunity, you must reply with “yes, and…”  Without this, the conversation, stops, and once it stops, then it’s over – there is no show, no living.  I guess this is more than true for life itself.

In high school, I think we think, well, if we can just graduate, then that will be it – we will know who we are.  I played on the volleyball team. Linda “Toes” Johnson was the best jumper on the team. It was like she had springs. We decided it was all in her toes, hence the nickname. She had the longest toes we had ever seen. She was Toes!  We called out her name during practice, during games. I would find it hard to believe that Linda, today, still defines herself as Toes.  

If we are truly living, we invent ourselves every day. We practice. We become. So if you ask me, are you from Alexandria, I reply, “Yes, and, Minneapolis, and Chicago, and New York, and France…”  Are you the writer? “Yes, and the painter, and blogger, and friend, and daughter, and wife, and..

There is so much to learn. To discover. To be. Thank God!  So today, I write something here, throw a little paint on a canvas, and I build. I listen to your replies and I say, yes, and I build. I listen to my heart’s whisper, and I say, yes, and… and I keep building. “What?” you ask. My soul. I’m building my soul. 

In high school, we imagined that Linda could fly – why in the world would we not imagine that for ourselves?  So, I ask you today, are you becoming?  

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Limping down the freeway.

Limping on the freeway.Yesterday we went to the big Casino, a large grocery store near our house. After a somewhat quick trip on the freeway, the tangled exit (which the city calls an improvement, but really almost makes it impossible to find the store), we picked the goods, put them in the cart, thought about the Easter menu, priced the items through the self-checkout, (with three calls to the assistant to reset the machine), pushed the items to the car, loaded them in the back, put the cart back, navigated the “improved” exit and got back on the freeway. We were mostly quiet. The radio wasn’t even on. The cars in the multi-lane freeway began to slow. Maybe an accident ahead. No worries really. We crawled along with the traffic. There was no honking, which is unusual for our country. The car in front of us made a quick lane change and our hearts stopped. In front of us, a one-legged man (with a prosthesis), walking down the middle of the freeway. My husband turned quickly, I imagine before we both started to breathe. We didn’t speak for a minute. What had we just seen? It was real? But it was more than strange. It was terrifying. Truly terrifying. Soul shaking. What was happening? What would happen to him? What were we all witnessing?

We put the groceries away, as if we could just get on with our day, and forget about it. But could we? Could we drive down this freeway and ever feel the same?

Our usual routine is to watch a small feed of the American news before lunch. The George Floyd trial was on. They showed the videos again and again. I can’t describe them in detail, for it too, is unimaginable. What are we witnessing here? How can this be real? How can this possibly have happened. The same soul- shaking feeling gripped my insides, and I knew, what we are watching is our collective humanity dangerously limp down the middle of the freeway.

Our pure, but broken, humanity is in grave danger. But just as sure, it is alive. It is living.

They have done studies in France to calculate the estimated time one has to remain alive on the side of the road, say, if your car has broken down. The time is surprisingly short. There are no studies estimating your chances in the middle.

We don’t have the luxury of time here. We have to save our humanity. This minute. This very second. I don’t have the answers, so I can only work on myself. In this springtime air, this moment of rebirth, we have the chance to begin. We have the chance to make a change, make a difference, to say, “Let it be me.” Let it be me.