Writing this weekly column is usually an easy and straightforward thing, except when it isn’t. It is easy when I have a subject or theme in mind, usually prompted by recent news or a chance event or encounter. I do a little research, supplemented by retrieval from the eclectic collection of information and memories that I keep in the recesses of my mind, and Bob’s your uncle, the words pour out onto the virtual page on my computer screen.
There are times though when the creative muse refuses to come out of hibernation and I stare at the blank screen wondering what I am going to write about. Sometime, even when I have a ready subject in mind, I will quickly dash off a couple of paragraphs, get lost in a virtual writer’s wood and find myself wandering around and wondering where to go next. Writing is definitely an unpredictable and capricious enterprise.
This week was one of those instances where my mind kept hovering over a field of potential ideas, and failed to find a safe place to land. In the initial stages, I thought perhaps I would write something about Ukrainian weddings, as this past Saturday I had the pleasure of being the emcee at a cousin’s wedding. Anna, the young lady in question, was hitching her star to a fine young man of mixed Italian and Scottish ancestry. As I pondered the genetic implications, my memory banks reminded me that there is a long history of Ukrainian – Italian relations. The Genoese and Venetians first established trading posts on the Crimean and Black Sea coasts over eight hundred years ago. I am sure that the resultant trade likely included transactions that involved the exchange of chromosomes. And some 350 years ago, didn’t the famous Kozak Hetman Bohdan Khmelnitsky have a dashing colonel by the name of Maxym Kryvonis who was reputed to be a Scottish mercenary that somehow found his way to Ukraine? Kryvonis translated into Ukrainian means crooked nose, so I would hazard a guess that there is a long line of crooked noses in Ukraine descendant from this illustrious forebear. Well that’s interesting stuff, but what does that have to do with Ukrainian weddings? I guess that thread had detoured into a no man’s land, and was not fated to be my subject of the week.
I next considered writing about the latest developments in Ukraine, perhaps about the escalation of the war in the Donbas, or maybe about the havoc that newly released Ukrainian hero Nadia Savchenko was creating on the political scene in Ukraine. The more I thought about it though, the more reluctant I became in pursuing those possibilities. Of late I have been writing nothing but commentary on such issues, and so has everyone else it seems. My contrarian nature kicked in and two more possibilities were relegated to the twilight zone.
A diversionary surf through my Facebook page reminded me that the Ukrainian soccer team was playing Germany in the European championship tournament. “Aha” I exclaimed triumphantly inside my head to myself. Finally a prospective topic that I haven’t written about recently or at all for that matter. The initial eagerness dissipated quickly however, as I realized that I really don’t know all that much about soccer in general, and the Ukrainian soccer scene even less. In fact, the only name of any player on the Ukrainian team that I knew was Konoplyanka, and I only remembered that name because it was so delightfully unusual, being derived from the Ukrainian word for marijuana. Another idea up in smoke, so to speak.
Darn it, I thought. This is going to be a tough week for writing an article. That train of thought led me to recall that I have been writing this weekly column for some sixteen years. That would come to somewhere around 700 columns or over half a million words in total. Holy moley that is a lot of words. Did I really have that much of any importance to say? Was all that effort of any consequence to anybody other than stroking my own ego with the belief that what I wrote was worth reading?
That kind of philosophical introspection always leads me, of course, to thinking of what my wise old cousin Hryts from the picayune village of Pidkamin would say. And I know exactly what he would say.
“You are a turnip head, my friend, who thinks too much for his own good! You have a good heart, so do what your heart tells you and stop worrying about what anybody thinks of it or whether it is worth doing.”
Yep! I am sure that is what he would say. But enough of that. What am I going to write this column about?