Jodi Hills

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


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And stronger I ran.

They tarred over the playground of Washington Elementary. I have the scars on my knees to prove it. 

Back by the swings there were two horizontal poles. I’m guessing they used to hold the planks of wood to form teeter-totters. Maybe they thought the teeter totters were too dangerous, so they removed them. But that didn’t stop us.

I don’t know who thought of it first, but we all did it. If you wrapped one leg over the top of the pole, grabbed it with your arms underneath, forming a circle around the pole, then kicked the other leg from underneath you, you could spin around the pole like a human hula hoop. When it worked, it was glorious. Dizzying. Exhilarating. But when it didn’t…

My sweaty hands slipped from my leg and I landed hard against the pavement — so hard, the very breath that carried me, fled faster than any spinning hoop, fled from my body and flattened me against the tar. No air could get it. I panicked. So panicked I couldn’t even cry out. The weight of it all, against my chest. It seemed too much to bear. It was Shari, or Jan, or maybe even Cindy, one of them said, just wait, it will come back. The air will come back. They gathered around me. The air they breathed found its way to me. We had each other. Even then. And stronger I ran, lifted with the knowledge of having survived. It still carries me. Carries us. Stronger. Together.


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Gessoed.

It makes a grand difference. You might not even know you’re looking at it, but it’s there – the gesso. Before painting, it’s a good idea to prime the surface with gesso – the unsung hero of the painting. It creates a base, a surface — something for the paint to cling to.  It’s just a little rough to the touch, but oh, so necessary when building a structure that supports the image.

As the painter, you can feel it. How it responds to your paint. It’s an extra step, but always worth it.  

I suppose I’ve always been attracted to those who have been “gessoed.”  Those who have survived the days, the days a little rough to the heart’s touch. Their beauty seems to shine through, just a little brighter. And I trust this beauty, as something to cling to.

The real trick is to try and see it in yourself. See the hard days as your own gessoing. I’m trying to get better at it. I haven’t perfected it yet, but I am seeing them for what they are, perhaps just a few moments sooner, and I will take those small victories. Seeing them as the “gesso” for the next painting. Something to build on. The strength that will support me. 

I want you to know that I see you, my gessoed friends. And sometimes, I lean on you, perhaps even without your knowledge, but I do. I hope you do the same, with me, and all the rough (and I use this in the most complimentary way) beauties around you. If we can do this, we can do anything. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?