I have been scanning my films from Crimea, and some of the landscape images of the steppe kept bringing me back to thoughts of Chekhov, who had grown up not far away and spent early days wandering the steppe - many of his later plays and stories involve people adrift in houses set in wide empty spaces. Yesterday I read his short story "Happiness" with its description of the open steppe and the 'kurgany' - enormous burial mounds of Scythian or Bosporan kings that arise out of the flat landscape. Two shepherds are sitting in the steppe, discussing the nature of happiness - or luck - since schastye in Russian can mean either, or both. The kurgany are well known for hiding treasure - crocks of exquisite Scythian gold. The older shepherd was dreaming of finding a crock of Scythian or Cossack happiness - or luck - while recognising that it wasn't going to happen:
“In the bluish distance where the furthest visible hillock melted into the mist nothing was stirring; the ancient kurgany, once watch-mounds and tombs, which rose here and there above the horizon and the boundless steppe had a sullen and death-like look; there was a feeling of endless time and utter indifference to man in their immobility and silence; another thousand years would pass, myriads of men would die, while they would still stand as they had stood, with no regret for the dead nor interest in the living, and no soul would ever know why they stood there, and what secret of the steppes was hidden under them.”
Here was the image I was scanning:
I posted a digital test picture for this image while I was travelling so if it looks a little familiar from an earlier post, don't be surprised, but this is the final version, quite a different composition from the (somewhat cropped) earlier on-the-road image.