Chapter Three The Violin
Vermilion South Dakota, The Shrine to Music Museum, March 1986
She had been waiting in the dark many long years, for him to come back to her ... for him to caress her again, to awaken her once more into her full power. She was ready ...
Joseph and his fellow students had driven many hours to the ’Shrine To Music Museum’ in South Dakota to see some of the rarest Classical Italian violins in the world.
"Joseph, your dreams remind me of ones I’ve had, of a beautiful place like that, but . . ." Rachel paused, looking thoughtful.
They had sat next to each other on the long drive from Salt Lake City and Joseph had told Rachel about his dreams. He kept the telling to the beautiful aspects, as he was not sure if he could talk anymore of the horror he had witnessed. He had just told Charlie all about it, and now Charlie was on life support, just clinging to a thread of life. Joseph was feeling spooked by the last few days events.
As they traveled the long drive, Joseph was starting to relax a bit with Rachel. He had no expertise with the opposite sex as his whole body burn scars had always kept him from getting too close to any girls or young women. His lack of confidence did not seem to matter to Rachel, as she kept the conversation going with Joseph for all the many miles they traveled on the trip.
They had both just sat down in their chairs at a long table in the Museum, getting ready for a full day of examining and handling these rare violins.
Bringing his focus back to her, Joseph asked, "Rachel, have you had dreams like mine?"
"Yes, and yours sound so familiar, like what I have seen in my dreams. The type of landscape, the bright sun and the colors. How odd that we might have dreamed similar dreams?"
"Yeah, that is pretty weird."
Joseph was now distracted, thinking about his friend Charlie. Seeing him laying in that hospital bed hooked up to those machines. My God, it could have been me laying in that bed, or worse, if I had been out on the street with him ...
And Charlie was wearing my old hooded jacket, so ... ? Was the car aiming for Charlie, or was it just a freak accident? What the hell is happening? They said the car drove straight at Charlie. Dead on. Jesus, what’s going on?
He had been torn, and felt guilty that his friend was hurt so badly after Joseph had felt such anger towards him. But Joseph felt that he had to make the trip to further his education. He just had to to have the surgery to try to repair the scars. They caused him so much pain every single day.
"What do you think they mean, Joseph? The dreams, do you have them often? I keep dreaming of a beautiful house with carved stone archways, white plaster walls, a courtyard filled with flowers and palm trees, and fountains with colored tiles. The sound of the water, and the water sparkling in the sun ... it’s so completely beautiful, I want to actually go there if I could."
"Sounds beautiful ... I would sure love to see the world the way it used to be before the war," Joseph answered. "It sounds like you are dreaming of how it all was before?"
Joseph was looking around the old Carnegie Library where the Museum was housed, with its wood paneled walls and floor and high wood beamed ceiling. The building interior had an almost timeless look, with a lingering smell of musty old books blended with lemon-oil wood polish. He felt that in the presence of these ancient violins that he could have been in almost any year, any century in time. The lighting was soft, with rows of high windows admitting the dull late winter sunlight. Long rows of wood framed glass cases lined the walls housing famous violins, looking like two long lines of beautiful feminine forms.
He was brought back from his revere, by Rachel asking, "I think it might be of a past lifetime coming through my dreams, for me ... do you think that is possible? That yours are something like that too?"
The rest of the twenty five students had now settled into their chairs and were still talking with each other, when the Head Curator of the Museum indicated by clearing her throat that they were about to begin. "Ahem ...
Joseph whispered to Rachel, "I will tell you more about my dreams latter tonight."
The students were sitting tightly against one side of a long wooden table. Their arms resting on the layers of thick quilts that covered it, with their hands covered with clean white cotton gloves. A student curator stood guard behind each one of their twenty-five chairs, tensely poised, ready to reach out quickly and arrest any careless touch to the valuable instruments.
The hours rolled by as one famous violin after another was brought out of the glass cases for them to exam. It was a long day of immersion into this world of ancient violins. A number of the violins were built by Antonio Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù, and there were other instruments by the Amati family, the inventors of the modern violin and teachers of Stradivari. Rare lutes made from ebony and ivory were brought forth, and finally late in the day the last violin was carried into the room. By now Joseph had started to feel sleepy, with his eyes half shut, his mind feeling numb from all the beauty he had seen.
With the distant sight of this last instrument, Josephs fading energy came strangely alive. He startled, sitting upright from the slump his body had assumed. He would latter recall this first moment when his life and what he knew of it, his entire world, had changed forever. He thought he knew who he was before the universe shifted, before he saw that violin for the first time. Afterwards ... nothing, not him nor his world would be the same ever again.
The curator spoke. "This last instrument was recently loaned to the Museum by it’s owner. It is unique, with what we believe to be a fused Amber varnish, and very sophisticated lines and curves.
Nothing is known of its maker, except that it appears to be of the very early sixteen hundreds, possibly Italian. Though there is a strange set of marks beautiful carved on the top of the scroll. They appear to be Hebrew letters אמת, which are pronounced emet, which translates as ’truth’ in Hebrew. No one has any idea what a Hebrew word is doing on this instrument."
Distracting Joseph for a moment from his intoxication with the violin, Rachel softly exclaimed in response to this new information, "What did she say? How could that be?"
Joseph did not seem to hear her, as he was mesmerized by the sight of this instrument.
Flashes of fire sparkled in the beautiful golden varnish and the illuminated gem-like wood as the ancient violin was slowly passed from hand to hand down the long table. Time seemed to stretch and crawl for Joseph. It felt like it was taking so very long to reach him. The sunlight hitting the varnish continued to produce magnified sparks of fire-light that caught his eyes, almost blinding him as it grew closer.
There was something about this violin. This last one that was so very strange, so different from the others, that Joseph did not understand. He felt that it was calling to him like the sirens of Greek mythology. But where are the rocks, am I about to be dashed apart?
Was it just the glowing iridescence of the varnish, the sensuous curves of its back and belly, or what ? It felt to Joseph like some powerful presence had just entered the room when it had been brought in. Waiting for his chance to examine it, his heart was beating faster, his breathing becoming shallow, and Joseph was filled with a sharp prickly anticipation.
With his gloved hands Joseph received the violin that was at long last handed to him by Rachel. As she handed it carefully to Joseph, she saw the strange look on his face and asked, "Joseph, are you okay, you’re pale and you’re sweating?"
"I’m alright I think ... I don’t know ... " All I can see is just this violin and nothing more ...
Rachel was getting alarmed. "Are you ill? Do you have a fever?
"Rachel I’m fine, don’t worry ... "
He was struck at first by what seemed to be almost an aura, a glow of unusual light that surrounded this violin. It somehow was radiating from the deep beauty of the honey colored varnish covering the wood.
The varnish seemed able to capture and hold the dull sunlight streaming into the large room, somehow magnifying it. It was if it possessed the capacity to store the light and re-radiate it in concentrated form.
The violin looked to be very old though still apparently in remarkable shape with no serious damage to the wood or the varnish. The flowing shapes of the upper and lower bouts, the curve of the waist, and the finely carved spirals of the scroll, were all close to that the Amati family violins. Though shaped with a much finer delicacy of line and curve than any Amati ever possessed. It was somehow, completely unique, and very different from any of the dozens of valuable violins he had been privileged to hold and exam while at the violin making school. It somewhat resembled a Stradivarius violin, but apparently was much older by at least a century.
Even though this instrument was not playable, as it was missing its bridge, tuning pegs, saddle and strings, Joseph thought he could almost hear it quietly humming and vibrating in his gloved hands, somehow with a life of it’s own. It seemed to posses a warmth that was strange, animal like, almost moving as if with a quiet and very slow heartbeat.
Carefully turning the violin around in his hands, he looked into the first ’F’ hole and could see a faded paper label. Holding the violin close to his eyes to see it better, he could smell a strong scent from within it of old wood but also somehow something spicy, a smell like incense. Frankincense possibly?
On the label, Joseph could just make out what might be the makers name, scrawled in what looked like perhaps Italian. Looking closely, he could just see a few letters, Ma, r , us, An, to, s, maybe, very faintly.
There were other shapes of a different type as well drawn in black ink on the wood nearby the label, which might have been letters in another language. But these strange marks, which could barely be made out in black ink on the darkly aged inside wood, were like nothing he had ever seen before.
Turning the head of the violin, the scroll, around in his hands, he looked closely at what the curator said were Hebrew letters, finely carved into the middle groove of the scroll. A strange tingling feeling was striking him, hard, in his belly. My god, what is this to me? How can looking at this, this word ... make me feel this way? " Emet, truth" ? I know nothing about Hebrew or anything Jewish. What is it?
The head Curator was continuing to lecture about the violin, but Joseph did not hear a word as he gazed more deeply into the brilliant golden waves of the violin’s luminous finish. He held onto it much longer than he had any of the other instruments.
He could not, did not want to let it go. He was mesmerized with all the world closing in around him and coalescing into just this violin and nothing more. Joseph had felt this way before, just once during his daily meditations when a radiant white light had penetrated his inner eye, blinding him with ecstatic brilliance. Familiar though different, of a kind. His body was now starting to feel almost transparent, as it did when he saw that inner light. He felt as if a crack was opening, breaking apart what he knew to be real, just barely tearing the space beneath his feet. But this time Joseph was not meditating. His eyes were wide open and he was looking at and holding a violin.
Seeing the light reflected in it’s deep iridescence. The golden varnish. The waves of beautiful fiddle-backed maple, and his own reflection in the glowing surface. Joseph was as in a trance drawn to do what was forbidden, to dare to touch the varnish with his bare skin. I want to feel it just one time, to see if it is really as warm to my skin as it looks to my eyes. Risking reprimands from his violin school director and the student curator tensely hovering behind his chair, Joseph finally could not resist any longer. He moved his right arm just a bit, exposing a bit of his wrist between his shirt cuff and the glove, and pressed the skin of his bare wrist into the varnish covered wood.
It feels so warm and soft to the touch. So good. So deeply intoxicating. Almost hot like it is emanating a inner fire .... It feels erotic, though somehow almost spiritual and sacred at the same time. This maybe must be what it feels like to touch a woman? To feel like this? It’s amazing! In awe Joseph felt like he was caressing and pressing against warm flesh, somehow, of a divine feminine presence.
Without warning his wrist was now sinking into the varnish and wood and he felt himself falling. Arm first, then shoulder and head. Josephs whole body was melting and curving over into a wisp of cloud, of vapor ... out of control, spinning with dizzy vertigo. Panic rose into his throat as the room around him vanished in a swirl.
His entire world resolved into a spiraling vortex of golden light and darkness. A searing pain pierced his brain, as Joseph plunged into the unknown.
What’s happening ... am I dying? Is this what it feels like? Even in meditation, I have never felt so un-tethered, so completely weightless, so far gone. Joseph was dropping faster and faster, as if falling from a great height into the varnish, melting as a spinning energy, both deep black and brilliant white-hot ... plunging deeper and deeper, into forgotten time .... sinking into lost forsaken memory ...