Autumn, by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin
October has arrived - the woods have tossed
their final leaves from naked branches;
A breath of autumn chill - the road begins to freeze,
The stream still murmurs as it passes by the mill,
The pond, however's frozen; and my neighbor hastens
to his far-flung fields with all the members of his hunt.
The winter wheat will suffer from this wild fun,
and baying hounds awake the slumbering groves.
There is nothing more compelling than learning about a place through the stories of locals; the eyes of an outsider are never able to capture the genuine spirit, the chants and whispers, the joys and struggles experienced by a town. I was incredibly fortunate to explore Tsarskoye Selo, Pushkin, in the company of a local. On a cadent autumn afternoon, we wandered through the vast Ekaterininsky Park, spreading like a forest, guarded silently by majestic marble statues, presided by the baroque imperial palace and decorated with precious pavilions, bridges and fountains, that Catherine the Great commissioned to prominent 18th century European architects.
Tsarskoye Selo provided summer solace to the Russian royalty and hosted an active intellectual life; the Russian empress was especially fond on the arts and was committed during her reign to expanding public educational opportunities in the country. While indulged by the splendid architecture of the Russian цари’ summer residence, the calmness of the gardens and the stunning colors of the fall, I was mostly seduced by the tales I was told. There was a timid sense of pride in Olga’s hometown narratives, particularly when sharing childhood memories. The magnificence of Ekaterininsky Park was her playground; the labyrinth of the French garden her puzzle, the Turkish Bath pavilion her old-time favorite refuge; frequent visits to the palace and the concert hall with her parents instilled on her a deep appreciation for art, literature and music, and certainly shaped the sophisticated young woman she is today.
Tsarskoye Selo is daringly beautiful; architectonical glories embedded in a stunning natural environment, a clear statement of imperial power, a historical testimony. But history is written in books, often filtered by dominant discourses; I am more interested in the real stories told by real people. We walked for hours through the park and I listened to the rhythms of Olga’s voice, I listened to the trees, and while transported in time, I felt incredibly present -I experienced a true sense of wholeness.
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.” ~Hermann Hesse, Wandering
Someone who loves playing with language as much as I do asked me to think of my initial impression of Sankt-Peterburg and say the first words that come to mind to describe it: “один месяц в три словах" (one month in three words), she said. I thought I would share my response with you along with some photo memories.
Local Cultural Explorations. This is a field assignment in which you are responsible for facilitating cultural explorations of Sankt-Peterburg sites that are meaningful to you, and to educate us about this particular place and the story/stories that tells. We are going beyond the classroom and into the city. Examining the city will allow us to reflect on and discuss the cultural characteristics of urban settings, what they reveal about the human interactions, and the human cultures they reflect.
Pushkin, former Detskoye Selo (Children's Village), located 24 kilometers from St-Peterburg has been chosen as our first destination!
“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~ Anaïs Nin The Diary of Anaïs Nin
“Difficulties strengthen the mind”, Spanish philosopher Séneca said –no wonder he was a Stoic! I must admit it: the Russian language is truly testing the limits of my brain, and attempting to scratch just the surface of its personality is posing a massive challenge. I expected it? Yes! I feel overwhelmed? Sí! I am embracing it? Да
"No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.” ~Vladimir Nabokov
Toska - noun /ˈtō-skə/ - Russian word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness.
My language learning ride has been challenging and provocative. I am relearning my world with clumsy strokes of Russian, I am in an state of disorientation that can only hope is transient; but I must trust the child in me, the most potent muse of all, to embrace the rhythm of learning, to keep playing with words and making mistakes. До скорой встречи!