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The Magic of Christmas!

December 27, 2015

Or how magic is it, really? The story of Christmas is omnipresent and enchanting, regardless of creed. For some it's sacrosanct, for others, symbolic. The experience of Christmas is a different story - both paradoxical and multifaceted. 

May your experience be a joyful one! And remember:  
  • Be grateful for your health, family and friends
  • Be thankful for a home that shelters and protects you
  • Be mindful of those who struggle to survive 
  • Spare a thought for the weak, the lost and the forgotten 
  • And for the tiny neglected and abandoned ones
  • And all those who have lost loved ones and carry great crosses 
  • Be conscious that Christmas brings many feelings that are not all joyous
  • And if you can, be charitable with even one small single act of kindness 
  • If possible, celebrate the essence and not the madness of Christmas
  • And always remember that compassion and love outweigh all other gifts
The Magic of Christmas

Small bells chimed,

lights glistened and glowed,
the tree wore its finest apparel,
its lights dancing to age old carols!
Outside it was cold,
inside it was warm and peaceful
and those little hands explored! 
Wide-eyed he surveyed the aftermath,
a semi-abstract semblance of Christmas 
might have come into greater focus,
filling his tiny mind! 
And if discourse was his tongue, 
he might have asked about this Santa chap - 
He might have matched this magic
to a big friendly bearded man who bears nice gifts! 
And as he watched through the window 
after jabbing the tree-trinkets,
casting that gaze of innocence into the night sky,
beyond the moon and stars,
he might have gently rounded his soft new lips 
to whisper the timeless Christmas mantra,
"Ho, Ho, Ho'


Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Days Young!

November 25, 2015

My little boy is three hundred and sixty five days young, already! That’s three hundred and sixty five beautiful days! And every day that I can wake up to the sight and sounds of my child, is a good day! We have watched him develop, grow, explore, and take in some of the wonders of our planet. We made a concerted effort to show him as much as possible in this time because every day is a gift and our time here is profoundly short. He has visited many different places, been on numerous flights and even received a gift of a teddy bear from Aer Lingus, for his flight time. He has clocked up as many flying hours as months! We have made no effort to love him because we do this automatically and unconditionally and with the greatest delight imaginable! He is our flesh and blood and a great source of everlasting beauty that will always flow through our hearts, regardless of what the future holds.

While reflecting on all of this, I am mindful of those who are not as lucky. I am mindful of those who have lost children and those who struggle and fight to give their children a rightful and deserving place in the world. I am mindful of children who have no say or no choice regarding the environment they are brought into. No child elects to be ill-treated. No child elects to be displaced from either their parent or their home. The closest you can get to divine light, is via the presence of a child. In today’s world, in advance of conveying vitriol to those who struggle and have very little left, be thankful that you are not running for your life and the life of your beautiful children. Be thankful that you are not holding your little children in the fulcrum of abject hell on earth, or risking the merciless sea in flimsy vessels to escape the brutality and viciousness of twisted human beings. Be thankful that your children are not washing up on any shore and hopeful that they will never have the traumas and terror of war etched on their tiny innocent minds.

Regardless of your opinions, your life choices and aversions or affinities for creed or kind, there is little denying that the love I have for my little boy is no different to the love any normal parents have for their children. The struggle to find peace, comfort and a safe dwelling among those who want a better life should never be overrun by those who sit in comfort and are quick to judge. Destitution of the heart is surely the greatest deprivation of all and those who have plenty seem to have very little in the greater scheme of things.


Just Up The Road …

February 12, 2014

Growing up in the South East in the seventies and eighties was a tepid affair in comparison to the heated fury of Northern Ireland. I was neither intellectually or socially privy to the repercussions of what seemed like war. 

My only recollections was the evening news on an old analogue TV. It fed us regular tragedies from bombings and killings to street violence and public riots. This wasn’t  uncommon. It was an ongoing and recurrent narrative, woven into the fabric of our history - always playing itself out in some shape or form in the Ireland of this time. 

Thankfully for me and our Catholic family, it was only news feeds, and it seemed as distant as another country. It wasn’t entertainment however, and as a boy, I was intelligent enough to know that it wasn’t right, but I lacked a mature empathy and reasoning to see that this was my own country and literally not a million miles from where I lived. 

I could explain away my blasé attitude to these tragedies by concluding that we are designed to discard our own shadowy attributes and toss them onto others, but this wouldn’t be an accurate assessment how it was, at this time. There’s a much simpler explanation -  I was merely a boy looking through a window to another world and living in my own one. 

In retrospect, what is merely news to one, is often lifelong suffering and unrivaled tragedy to another. In my hometown, life went on as normal. I went to mass on Sundays, I said prayers at night, we said the Angelus at 6pm each evening before the news and I often said the Rosary, (In between regular bouts of childhood mischief).  And again, this analogue sideshow would beam into our home, and play itself out - another Catholic killed or another Protestant killed, or even another punishment beating,  How a small cluster of counties could develop to become synonymous with words like ‘revenge’ and ‘discrimination’, was beyond me. I lacked the understanding of why this battle weary cause was playing itself out over centuries, drip feeding an anger that seemed to be inherit in the genetic blueprint of those who fought for ‘freedom’ and those who called themselves ‘Irish’. 

As years progressed, the echoes of all of this reverberated in the songs of Irish singers and songwriters that lived in these not too distant moments, in the same manner that it has sustained itself in the Irish literature and songs of bygone eras. In every town and city there is a history that conveys some story of tragedy or triumph over foreign occupations or theocratic influence. There are personal stories that  fly in the face of the staunch archaic protocol that religion often bestowed on us and on community 

Thankfully, I can’t write about any of it as a firsthand experience and I consider myself lucky to have this inability. The best I can do, is convey a story that was never too far removed from reality in an era that was just around the last corner, or in a place that was ‘just up the road’. 


Reflections on Home

December 30, 2012

My home was more than just a house. Bricks and mortar can define a house, but 'home' has a far greater resonance. As a family we dwelled together and as a family unit, we tried to protect our own. We guarded our own space and we tried to live and love together as we faced the common challenges and struggles that came with family life. At times, we welcomed our neighbours and sometimes we welcomed strangers. While our house was built to protect; our home was built to grow.

Of course, our home was never flanked by luscious rose gardens beyond its entrance, or a white picket fence decorating its perimeters, and at times, affection and nurturing were often rationed among a large family. At other times, material gain was beclouded by unemployment and while quantity was often the measure of a house, it was not the measure of our home. 

I never really grasped this, until the day I stood alone in my childhood dwelling, amid cold empty spaces that had dissipated to a shadow of what was once a bustling intersection of family life. Suddenly the past came into focus. It was here in this silent place that the drama of childhood was once played out. Between these very walls, my childhood was now imaginary, like a dream that had no place in waking reality. Two bedraggled armchairs, where my parents once sat, lay frozen in time beside a dormant stove that was once the hearth of our little cottage. Cold, damp empty rooms and beds, occupied dark spaces that were no longer vibrating with the great gift of life. My house, once a home, had returned to being a house - or even a shell of a building. But it felt only like yesterday when I walked that road to my doorway, played in the neighbourhood with friends, slept in a warm bed, lived, loved and cried, and wondered aimlessly looking for more than I had. Nothing brought me face to face with the ghost of my childhood more than this silent, empty place and nothing reinforced the brevity of life more than this moment. Within the uncanny stillness of dank lifeless rooms, the cries and laughter of children no longer reverberated and the comfort, safety and affection of parents no longer resonated. Bright flames no longer flickered to dancing shadows on old walls and even the magic lights of Christmas that flanked our little sash and illuminated the figurines on the sill, no longer blinked. I looked for something in the emptiness. Where were the gentle hands of my father? Where were the loving arms of my mother? Where were the cries of excitement on those frosty Christmas mornings, when we scurried for gifts? How could the hands of time fall pitilessly upon this sanctity of such moments? How could it steal my childhood without warning, or swipe my parents without some semblance of mercy? Like a storybook in an unsuspecting gust, suddenly too many unread pages had unraveled, too many chapters had been tossed in the wind, and too many days had been spent innocent to the passage of time.

This is where my past came into sharp focus, laid bare in the stillness and silence of a little house. But it was here that I would also take comfort in the knowledge that although I could no longer dwell in the home; the home would always dwell in me. The quality of moments and memories were now the true measure of home. Quantity was finally redundant. Perhaps empty silent spaces would always be filled with the magic and mystery of childhood and the memory of home. Perhaps that uncertain, unsteady span between childhood and the here and now, would always be reinforced by the love of a mother and father, or the laughter of a brother or sister. And in the greater scheme of things, perhaps the great cycle of life would keep turning and vibrating in the stories of the past and in the illuminated spaces of the present. And if the power of experience and the gift of memory were never enough to conflate this great reality and these lingering hopes, the ever-present spirit of Christmas surely was!



JP Ryan JP Ryan is an Irish artist in the genre of Folk and Adult Contemporary Music. As an arts graduate with an MA in Art Therapy, he has used music and art in a therapeutic capacity, in many areas of the Health Service, with many years of experience as a registered art therapist. As a recording artist, JP has opened for some major acts and toured his own music, described as evocative, literate and lyrical. In addition to having music published, he has also had poetry published and his other hobbies include reading, writing, and strength and fitness training. In a sporting capacity he is an Irish, European and World Champion Powerlifter.