June was a lazy month. I took it easy and didn’t do much. Most but of all I like the mood, which is very similar to the one in my school times: another school year is over, all exams and tests are done and now it’s time to rest. It’s strange, though, as I’ve never been a school teacher or taught exclusively kids/ teens. But it is as it is. The beginning of a summer is usually a very inspiring time.
Trip to Kolomna
At the beginning of June we went for three days to Kolomna, a town to the southeast of Moscow. My husband was taking part in inline skating competitions and I was to keep him company and rest. We had been there a year before for the same reasons and then I really liked the place.
Kolomna is almost the same age as Moscow and was once an important trade town (in the 14-15th centuries second in wealth after Moscow in Grand Principality of Moscow). Here Dmitry Donskoy, the first prince of Moscow to openly challenge Mongol authority in Russia, gathered his troops prior to the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. He went on to win the battle and this is seen by Russian historians as “the turning point at which Mongol influence began to wane and Moscow’s power began to rise” (Wiki). So Kolomna is steeped in history.
I sometimes think that Moscow is too big and too noisy for me. Even at night you can hear the cars on numerous avenues. The sky above reflects the illumination of the city and is of orange colour. And I miss the fresh air, dark starry nights and quietness of small towns.
I did hope to find it all in Kolomna this year. But we were staying in the centre and our visit coincided with summer town festivals and whatnot… So I didn’t find the peace and quite I wanted but I explored the centre and found a new hobby for myself – postcards.
But first let me share some of my photos. First I was surprised to come across a tiny museum of women’s garments, aren’t they charming? =)
Then I was making rounds of the remnants of the kremlin wall and towers, the main churches and cathedrals and local museums. Everything is very close to each other and in the way to the skating centre where the Championship took place. So I couldn’t really avoid the beauty =)
Now, about the postcards. My childhood was an amazing time without mobile phones and the internet. I used to send letters and postcards to my friends and family. And I liked to get some =) There’s something very personal in this, incomparable to sharing photos in messengers or online. With a postcard, one has to sit and think what to write. Not too much, not too trivial, but with a personal touch.
So I thought it would be quite an entertainment to find interesting postcards and send them from Kolomna. And it was. I found some “touristy” postcards, but also a set of old ones. Have a look at them:
It actually took a while for me to start distinguishing what’s in them – this is how much we’re used to bright colourful photos now, I imagine. But once I got used to the postcards, I was as if transferred to the old times where time went differently and life was ordered and hasteless.
Also, for June I took a book of Mikhail M. Prishvin with his autobiography which is set in approximately the same time as the postcards were created, so they were a good match for my reading.
The Treasure Trove of the Sun by Mikhail M. Prishvin
This is the only book I read in June. I decided to continue resting from English and keep reading in Russian =)
Actually the book I have has three works. The Treasure Trove of the Sun is one of the most famous novellas and probably that’s why was put on the cover. But it’s short, just 40 pages. The biggest part of the book is taken by Prishvin’s autobiography called Kashcheev‘s Chain.
He started working on it in his late 40s and continued to do so till the end of his life, changing and rearranging some parts. The autobiography is written in the tradition of Russian classical literature describing the life of nobility. The other works of this kind are Leo Tolstoy’s Childhood. Boyhood. Youth. or Maxim Gorky’s My Childhood. In the World. My Universities.
But Prishvin’s work is mainly a philosophical novel, so it focuses on how the protagonist, Alpatov (which was another family name of Prishvin, as he says “for the street”), develops his personality and finds his vocation by going through hardships, self-doubts and unhappy love. Profound changes in the Russian society at the turn of the 20th century serve as a backdrop and are shown through Alpatov’s thoughts, reflections and feelings.
Prishvin is known as “the singer of Russian nature” and his language is very poetic and rich in imaginary. There are plentiful descriptions of nature, birds and animals, weather and seasons that are intertwined with the main events. Again and again, we see how these encounters with nature bring the protagonist “back to life” and inspire him to continue searching for his way in life and solve his life questions.
For example, Alpatov is put in prison in solitary confinement for political reasons for almost six months. But he invents an imaginary “expedition to the North Pole” (measured by the number of steps he can make diagonally in his cell) and finds consolation in observing and sky, the tree and the change of seasons (the end of winter and the beginning of spring) through a small window… Amazing. You once read Prishvin, you can’t help wondering how essential it is for a person to be close to nature and how much support one can find there.
Now, for the name of the novel. “Kascheev’s” means “belonging to Kaschei. Kaschei (or Koshei) is a character of Russian folklore, often carrying the epithet “The Deathless” and described as an evil, extremely skinny man of indeterminable age whose death is hidden away (“in the needle that is hidden inside the egg, the egg is in the duck, the duck is in the hare, the hare is in the chest, the chest is buried on a far island“). Russian actors portraying Kaschei in old films:
In the autobiography, “Kascheev’s chain is, firstly, a collective image of social evil, and secondly, a symbol for everything flabby, weak, weak-willed that lurks in a person’s soul and prevents him from revealing his true identity. In accordance with the philosophical concept of the novel, the author calls its parts “links” of that evil “Kashcheev’s chain” that Alpatov must break on his way to freedom.” (Translated from here).
Well, I must confess that some parts of the book weren’t easy, especially because we read about the reflections and observations of the protagonist about the events without a clear description of the events themselves, and I’m not that knowledgeable of history of that period. But I really liked the book.
I would be really interesting to read Prishvin’s diaries which he kept for almost 50 years and which constitute the biggest part of his complete set of works.
After the trip to Kolomna, it was time to get back into “working mode” and, not to go far from learning data analytics, I started to solve some maths problems. I have a couple of books for university entry exam preparation and it would be good to do them before learning “maths for Data Science” (I’ve tried and it looks way too complicated).
I have no idea how much time it will take to refresh the basics but I’ve decided to look at as a way to develop “mathematical thinking”. There’s something very exact and clear-cut in it: a concrete solution of a given problem. And this is light years away from “psychological thinking”, where everything depends on the person, their view of the world, their beliefs or their previous experience, or “language thinking”, where there are rules (with lots of exceptions, though), but also the choice of words depends on their frequencies, the context, the tone, the message and so on.
I remember that when I started learning languages and psychology at university I was actually very often confused. Because I looked for clear and logical answers and heard “it depends”. Then I had to rearrange my way of thinking to get my mind around my subject matters. Now, it seems, I have to rearrange it back. Interesting =)
I won’t be easy. Now, when I read logic riddles, I find it really difficult to focus on the given conditions and stop thinking about “the context” and “the background” and “it depends” and “how should I know” and “everything can happen”… I go to my husband for help and all I hear is “don’t make it difficult, everything you need is here”. But… but… it’s never the case in life! So, yes, there’s a lot to learn with maths.
Actually, I’ve done only 30 (very) simple linear equation problems and I’ve already discovered that my arithmetic skills and my attention definitely need some improvement. It’s just unbelievable how easily I replace “+” with “-” or miscalculate the numbers of xs and ys. Well, ok.. I’ll try to do better.
I finally did it. I stopped watching Suits right in the middle of an intrigue (season 3: the murder trial of Ava Hessington). It was so sudden. I watched the opening of an episode. Something clicked with me. I closed the video and that was that. Now I wonder what to replace series with.
My guess is that I watch series not just for rest, but for small injections of adrenaline. Suits didn’t have much of this, so it was easy to get off the hook. But where can I find what I want if I’ve had enough of detective series with murders? Something like historical fiction dramas maybe? At least the killings there are perceived differently, such were the times… I’ll decide it later. Summer is the time for being outside, not series =)
I did find one interesting video, though, – How To Take Effective Notes While Reading. It’s a short one, just about 5 minutes. But it got me thinking on how to approach my next non-fiction book.
A while ago I used to read books as if I would have an exam on them later – trying to retain (or highlight, or take notes of) as much information as possible. Then I asked myself, Am I reading a book or trying to take perfect notes? Hmm… It became better but still I highlight all the main ideas and sometimes it becomes too much.
The guy in the videos recommends that we “have a question in mind before [we] start”. Then we can focus on the information relevant to that question as we read. And after reading the book it’s good to “write down 5 to 10 principles that you are going to put into action”.
I could make use of these tips and see if it helps to get stuck less. For example, I’ll write down my question and the principles and I’ll share them here.
I also started watching Versailles : Le Propre Et Le Sale (in English here), but I didn’t finish it. It was a bit difficult to understand and after about a third of the video the French subtitles stopped working. If with French films the gist may be enough, with documentaries it means I may miss some interesting facts. I think to rewatch the video and use its English version to help me.
If I feel enthusiastic, I’ll make a list of “shocking facts” about the French and their glorious “siècle”. It’ll be good French practice as well =)