Pat Shingleton: "Dew and Violins"
Dew is water that is condensed onto grass and other objects near the ground. There's a folktale or two about the magical qualities of dew. Dew has been used as a lotion for sore, itchy eyes and skin diseases. It has also been used to strengthen sickly children and is believed to heal gout and sharpen ones eyesight, especially if it is collected from the leaves of fennel. A young girl must gather dew prior to sunrise, from the ground under an oak tree, for beauty and good luck. Those that wash their face in dew from a Hawthorn tree at sunrise on the Celtic festival of Beltane will experience beauty for a year. The Victorians gathered early-morning dew in their hands and rubbed it on their faces to remove freckles. Witches in Scotland, collected dew with a hair tie and hung it in the barn to increase milk production. From dew to violins...Violin makers in the 17th and 18th centuries constructed instruments known for their superior quality. Those crafted by Antonio Stradivari are the most sought after of all time. Stradivari lived In Cremona, Italy from 1644 to 1737, an era known as the Little Ice Age and Maunder Minimum due to reduced solar activity. Scientists surmise that a climate change, during this period, affected tree growth and contributed to the improved acoustic quality of these violins. Researchers believe the slow; even-growth of wood patterns increased the wood's density, thus making it stronger. Stradivari implemented numerous techniques such as special ovens, wood seasoning and varnish. Research credits climate as the key ingredient. Years ago, a Stradivarius cello was relocated to the Royal Palace in Madrid and was accidentally broken.