Jodi Hills

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


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I handed him my business card, the one with my grandfather on it. Is that Rueben? It’s hard to explain the joy I received with those three words. He knew my grandfather. Remembered his name. Said it out loud. Such a small thing I suppose, but oh, how those small things can swell with pride, and connection. Oh, how they can jump through those tiny cracks in your heart and completely fill them. My grandfather had 27 grandchildren, fifty-some great grandchildren. And on. It was hard to stand out in that crowd. To hold that farmer’s hand for more than a few minutes. But yesterday, in this Caribou, with this Dave’s recognition, I was holding it all in my hand, holding once again this overalled man’s hand, my mother’s father’s hand in mine, and we were all connected.


I have told you before, we called it “the farm.” (My grandfather’s place) “The” – as if it were the only one. And for us, it was. Yesterday, after Caribou, we went to the bank. I had met the teller once before a year ago. I asked to make a deposit. He said, “Aren’t you the artist?” The artist. “Yes,” I said, heart swelling still and again.


To see each other. To give each other the greatest gift of all. “The gift.” May we all be forever generous.


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Sans temps. (Without time. )

My mother-in-law is without time. Some days she is forty years old. Some days 60. I suppose after nearly a century you should be allowed to choose your own age. And she does. Without apology, she is young, she has babies, and thinks you are the crazy one for getting older. She’s probably right.

There is a young girl that I have painted. Little girl blue. She is just about to dance. She’s just a tiny bit afraid, but determined. And you know she will do it. I see her every morning. In my bathroom mirror, her reflection is just beside mine. I put on my dress, and I too, am without time. I, too, have the legs of youth, and can hear the music. There is no yesterday, or tomorrow, just the open blue of today, and I can’t waste it. I let go the fear of time passing, and simply dance.


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Worth the time

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time. Georgia O’Keeffe

She held the clipboard tightly to her chest. It was a listing of all the paintings I was showing at her gallery. She didn’t list the prices on the wall. Only on the secret clipboard. I wondered at first if this was a good idea. I watched her interact with the guests. She was in complete control. Like she was leading the dance. They followed her. Asked questions. Even if someone asked to buy a piece, she said she would write their name down and let them know at the end of the show. Really? Was this a good idea? I didn’t know, but I trusted her, and this dance, it was so lovely. So the evening went on. Glorious with anticipation. People chattered. Who would get the paintings? It was so exciting. Value was added with each inquiry, each name taken down. And she held it all close to her heart.


She took her time, you see. She made the people engage. Ask questions. Learn about the paintings. The meaning of each one. The stories behind them. And it all had worth, the paintings, the people, the time. She sold out the show. The only time this has ever happened for me. It was amazing! What a rare and precious gift. All because she took the time. And in the time, saw the worth, held it close to her heart.


I want to live like this. Make friends like this. Gather it all in, close to my heart, every story, every second. This life, it’s really quite a show!


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U-turn.

She had to make a U-turn in traffic to capture a photo of this Vespa. While driving on this busy road, with as many thoughts as one woman normally carries in her head about the what ifs and the what to dos — this sky blue Vespa caught her eye and she thought about me. Me! She thought about me and turned the car around. Thought about the Vespas I had painted. Stopped her day and captured a picture. Sent it to me in another country, all because she thought about me.


I have a million images to paint. The ones dancing around my head. The ones people want to commission. But yesterday I stopped. I stopped to make a small painting of that blue Vespa. Because I thought about her. I thought about how good it felt to have someone across the globe take a minute of their day to say “I thought about you, and it’s important enough to take action.” That’s something!


They say it’s the thought that counts. Not really. If someone is thinking about you, but never tells you, never shows you — who cares? What good is that? Thoughts need to be expressed. (well, at least the good ones – some thoughts can certainly be kept to yourself :))


Maybe today is the day you show someone that you care. Make a simple U-turn and give them a smile. It matters. It is time worthy. Paint worthy. Word worthy. Heart worthy! Take the time.


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To travel

When I lived in Minneapolis, about the only travel I could afford, was “in time.” Life was deliciously full of work and friends and art, but every once in a while, when the walls started closing in, my friend Deb and I would decide it was time to take a trip. To Cottagewood. It was only about 15 minutes in distance, but years back in time.  Founded in 1895, tucked gently on the shores of Lake Minnetonka, this quiet community, survived a tornado, and the chipping away of progress. It still had the same General Store, selling gasoline, coffee and candy. 

We would arrive on a Saturday summer morning, buy a coffee, walk past the Texaco pump, and stroll through the gardens, or along the lake. People still put flags on porches, rested baby dolls on chairs in the yard, leaned bicycles against railings and left pails in the sand on the beach. There was so much life, in all of this quiet. It felt sacred and secure. Loving. Safe. Enduring. Without time. There was no need for hurry, or worry. It was built to stroll. In all of this calm, I found an energy to create. I painted the old Texaco pump. I painted the mailboxes, and inserted my name, so I could be a part of it all. Just as my grandmother had made quilts, inserting our old clothes, so we would be a part of the story.


I love to travel. This is how we find the stories of the world, and create a story of our own. Sometimes when I say that, people respond, “well, I have no money, no time, I can’t go anywhere…”  My response is this. When I was a child, taking care of myself during summer vacation, I would pack a lunch in a brown paper bag, fill my book bag, my water bottle, and walk into the farmer’s golden field behind our house. I brought back wild stories to tell my dolls and the neighbor girls. I traveled. When I was older, with no money (but not poor) I would travel to Cottagewood on a quiet summer morning, and travel, not only in space, but in time, in my heart, and in my soul. 


I was lucky enough that my art brought me to new places. Chicago. New York. Then my heart brought me even farther, to France, and all around the world.


The stories my grandmother made still lie around our house in Aix en Provence. The painting of the mailboxes greets people at our front door. The gas pump still leans in our yellow room. I took a stroll around our yard this morning and knew that in all this calm, there would be a space to create. A painting. A love. A life.


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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.