Hard Rain

Hard Rain


I’m at the end of a week in Los Angeles. I painted with my daughter, Rose, who came here from the forests of Virginia to work with me. Perfect.

I met a young man with schizophrenia who manages his own company, and founded an organization that helps the mentally ill.

I met a woman I have read about for years. She is a brilliant professor at a prestigious college, and also has schizophrenia.

How do I keep the demons at bay? They howl “why not Nick” into the branches at night. 

I had dinner with a friend whose son was hit by lightning and killed. Hit by lightning. Every time I see her, I want to rock her in my arms like a baby. Rose tells me that when a person is struck by lightning, their shoes fly into the air. 

I had cocktails with four women writers who knocked my socks off (they flew into the air).

And each day, I painted with Rose, side by side, the colors washing the white out of the walls.

I saw my family, nephews going on into the world, baby girl about to put on one foot ahead of the other and walk.

I sat with my life-long friends, laughing until our muscles hurt, tears washing the white of our eyes to pink. 

Rose told me about a friend who does silkscreen prints on tortillas. He couldn't keep them flat, so he laminates them onto old record albums. He sells them from a storefront in Silverlake that has a Craps game in the back room.

I had animated discussions about the present and the future of mental health care, about savants, society and the possibility that the voices really are God speaking.

If that is so, if it is God, what do I howl into the branches at night? What, now, is the accurate song?