1922, The Workshop of Diago Toscarti, Meda, Italy.
Intermittent sunlight broke into the studio and created rays of dust beams travelling across the wood shavings on the floor. The clock above the fire place, while covered in dust and wood fillings ticked quietly on. Diago was late yet again for work again but he had good reason this time for his absence. His beautiful wife Isabella was with child and it had not been a comfortable pregnancy for her by any means. She was sick almost all of the time and bed ridden with fever and terrible pains that would not go away or abate in strength and frequency.
For Diago, he was the Nurse and Father to be and provider for his impending family and this was making him extremely tired and he slept in a lot. His studio and instrument business suffered as a result as he could not make dead lines for his commissioned work and sales were down as the end result. He would often get to work only to be called home to tend to his wife who would be in all sorts of pain and discomfort because of the pregnancy.
The pathway leading to the studio was surrounded on both sides by quaint tiny houses with veggie gardens and beautiful olive trees with small flowery shrubs in various states of bloom and decay and it was on this well worn route to work Diago would ponder what to do next and make prayers to god for guidance and help while waving at the neighbours close to his studio.
He was a very skilled Luthier and maker of fine musical instruments. Violins were his speciality, but recently he had been asked to build some guitars and they were becoming more fashionable and popular by students at the local university and high school. His work was nearly always commissioned and dead lines were now coming and going with painful regularity. Angry people slammed his door shut to the studio when they were told of the delays for the instruments and now the orders were drying up...as were his savings.
It was then that the worst possible thing could have happened. Isabella went into labour whilst hanging out the clothes on the line 3 months early and after collapsing on the ground in pain she dragged herself inside to the kitchen and in less than twenty minutes their son was born....but he only opened his eyes for a split second then passed on into the next life. Isabella began to haemorrhage on the floor of the kitchen and while holding her lifeless child in her arms she to also passed into the next life.
All this time Diago was sanding down a beautiful guitar for a man who wanted his son to play this hand made masterpiece and this was to be a gift for the boy who had a deep seated proclivity for music, sound and the arts. All the guitar needed was to have the final paint coats on it and left to dry, sanded one more time then re- painted and it was done. Finally he could take home some money to Isabella and they could get the things they required for their new baby.
The clock on the wall ticked away incessantly.
Diego looked up and saw that it was almost home time and he would wait until morning to apply the first of the final coats of paint to this beautiful instrument. He left the guitar on his work bench with the neck support with a cushion and the dust from all the sanding rubbed off and ready for the paint. He then hung up his work smock on the door, turned off the lights, locked the front door and walked home.
It would be two weeks before he came back to the shop but he just sat in front of the fire place below the clock and cried for most of the day with out lifting a brush or a tool needed to commence work or finish it.
His life was shattered.
He wondered if he could ever come back from this tragic occurrence in his life. Diago bowed his head and watched his tears land on to the dust on the floor of his studio and he became very sleepy. He sat in his chair and closed his eyes and dreamed of his wife. In his dream she was in his studio standing next to the beautiful guitar pointing at it and then to him. His eyes opened and from his chair he looked at the guitar he had not touched since the accident with Isabella and he stood up and reached out for the guitar.
A myriad of feelings washed over Diago as he looked and held this guitar. His beloved wife and child were now gone and he felt empty and bereft of care and concern for anything else in his life. The guitar just need to be finished and given to its new owner to be played and nurtured as he had nurtured his wife. In the flurry of emotions that were swirling around in his mind he prepared the finishing solution in an old olive jar that he washed first and began to rub down the guitar with the finishing lacquer. At once the timber absorbed the stain and the outward appearance changed colour from a bland bleak light brown almost grey colour to a deep brown accenting to beautiful craftsmanship Diago had done in the previous weeks leading to this final stage. Isabella my love, this guitar is for you and for our son he thought as he dabbed the stain up and down the neck of the guitar. There were tears in his eyes again as memories flooded back to him of his beautiful wife.
Her voice, her laugh and the warmth of her body as she slept next to him. These feelings seemed to travel from his brain down his arm and into the guitar he was holding and lovingly preparing for sale. It was as if he was being allowed this time to say goodbye to his wife via the guitar because she was taken from him without words being spoken. Tears fell into the stain as he rubbed the mixture into the wood. His hands felt every curve and nuance of the timber and all too soon he had covered the guitar with the mixture and placed it on a hook above his workshop too dry and for the mixture to soak in properly.
Diago walked home hardly even looking up and answering the calls of greeting from the people in their gardens as he passed them. His hands ached from the rubbing of the guitar but this was nothing he had not felt before, but this time the ache was more deep seated in his heart. Food and drink were of no comfort to him when he go home. The house was empty, cold and it felt like it was grieving the loss of Isabella as well. Dishes were pilled up in the sink and Diago had not changed his clothes for days content to just fester in his grief and loss with no attention given to personal hygiene.
The pillow he rested his head on had a hint of how Isabella’s hair smelt on it and with deep lingering breaths he closed his eyes with visions of her in his mind and heart then slept.
Roosters in his neighbours yard dictated the time to wake up and without washing or eating still dressed in his clothes he rose from his bed, put his shoes on and walked back to his studio. There was an idea in his mind to honour the guitar he was making and he walked a little quicker than normal to the studio.
Opening the well used front door he scanned his studio and put on his work apron then set about mixing a solution of resin and finding a very small fine paint brush to use for his idea. When the resin was was ready he went to his work bench and found a sharp wood carving tool and cut the tip of his finger, not deeply, but enough to make the blood there well to the surface then he flicked it into the jar of resin and stirred it around until the resin became a light red colour then he picked up the guitar and looked into the sound hole.He dipped the brush into the resin and with all the love and skill he possessed he wrote the name Isabella inside the guitar. At once the resin changed the timber colour to a dark brown and he had written his wife’s name back into the guitar so it would not be seen directly through the sound hole. You would really have to look into the guitar to find it. He lay the guitar down with a great deal of reverence and just looked at it. In his mind he was saying good bye to it and giving it all the reverent blessings he could muster given all that had happened to him in two weeks.
The clock ticked on in the background filling the studio with the only sounds Diago could hear.
Eventually he began to move and start sanding and coating the guitar with its final coat of resin and then it was back on to the hook to dry before the nut and strings were attached and it was tuned in readiness for its new owner. This process took the rest of the day and by the end of it as Diago closed his workshop door and he felt better knowing that this guitar was special. Special to him and would be special to the young man who would play it hopefully for years to come.
On his walk homeward he once again fell back into waving at neighbours who actually walked out to greet him and handed him some food, flowers and hugged him like he was family. Diego was touched deeply by their affection towards him and this in a lot of ways woke him up and once he was home, he removed his now rancid clothes and had a warm shower and shave. Then he put his head down on his favourite pillow and slept deeply and soundly all night not dreaming at all but aware that the owner of the new guitar would be in his studio in two days so it was time to finish Isabella and move on.