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Ever changing, always the same

The beauty and challenge of The Heartful Touch, and the satisfaction to be gained therein, is to tailor a session that meets an individual’s needs and then switch gears for the next client to fashion a session with a different intention, a different mood, a different touch.

This was underlined on a recent weekend that brought me seven clients, one on Friday night, five on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Friday was a longtime client who, while having enjoyed the deep relaxation of CranioSacral sessions in the past, has gone back to what I would consider the ever-evolving version of my standard offering.

I began with reflexology on the feet, light massage of the scalp and face, followed by deeper work on the neck and pecs, joint capsule work on the rotator cuff and wrist and myofascial spreading of the arms and hands, fingertip pressure and then palmar assuaging of the abdomen, and hip joint capsule work followed by myofascial spreading of and then soothing long strokes on the different parts of the front of the leg.

Once the client turned over and was face down, more hip joint capsule work was followed by myofascial spreading of and then soothing long strokes on the different parts of the back of the leg and the glutes. Then myofascial spreading and lamina groove thumb work on spinal muscles, massage of the quadratus lumborum muscles between the pelvis and the ribs, lamina groove thumb work on upper spinal muscles, generalized and then specialized attention to muscles around the scapula, site of crunchy sore spots, and elbow work up the spine gave way finally to some soothing long strokes and figure-eights and the conclusion of the session.

On Friday morning, I knew I had one client scheduled. By Friday afternoon, the list had expanded to three. On Saturday morning, the fourth e-mailed me for an outcall appointment in Hoboken, and the fifth called on early Saturday afternoon for an outcall in Jersey City, which I was able to schedule at a time that allowed me to go from Jersey City to Hoboken for back-to-back neighboring outcalls. I had two in the morning, two in the afternoon and one in the evening. One was for an hour, two were for 90 minutes, and the last two of the day were for two hours each. One was a half-and-half session of massage and CranioSacral Therapy, the others were all massage. Two were new clients.

The challenges inherent in such a day included pacing myself, balancing time with attention to each section of the massage, going with the flow of what each client might expect, and giving the best-focused, healthful and heartful massage that each client deserved.

The client on Sunday, a rehab patient recovering from a car accident that put him into a five-week coma and has silenced, as of this writing, his ability to speak, required different skills, a different approach. His family has heard of the benefits of CranioSacral Therapy, and so I did hands-on work on his spine and head, feeling some releases and leaving him sleeping. Another appointment in what might be a series of sessions has been scheduled.

Three days, seven clients, a multitude of mini-decisions applied to what turned into what seemed to be successful sessions for each ­ alll part of the support service known as The Heartful Touch.

Technique/assisted stretch of the month

(from “Advanced Orthopedic Massage Manual” by James Waslaski, LMT,

Another joint-mobilization technique I’ve added to my repertoire since my five-day Orthomassage Intensive in February is one targeting the wrist. I grasp the client’s hand with one hand and stabilize the forearm with the other hand. I gently compress and decompress the wrist using nonsynchronized movements, several times, to break up any adhesions, in a technique that can be termed arthrokinetics. Such nonsynchronized movements distract the proprioceptors around the joint and create additional space. More space can mean less chance for inflammation and less chance for arthritis to develop.

Such a technique also can be applied to ease or prevent arthritis in the fingers. I push and pull in opposite directions on the metacarpal joints in each finger. Then I perform mini-myofascial spreading and release of the muscles of all the fingers. Next, I traction and gently stretch each joint of each finger into extension to increase the space between the joints and to improve vascular circulation.

Musical tips

I’ve spent the last few months listening to a dead woman.

No, I haven’t been living a real-life “Sixth Sense” (“I hear dead people”). Nor have I been engaging deceased female family members in conversation. Rather, I’ve been absorbing the musical lessons to be learned on the CDs of Nancy LaMott.

New York cabaret favorite of the 1990s, friend of President Clinton, hero of Kathie Lee Gifford and DJ Jonathan Schwartz, sufferer of Crohn’s disease and, finally, victim of uterine cancer who died at 44 on Dec. 13, 1995, Nancy LaMott lives on in five CDs released during her life, one released shortly after her death, and one released last year. There is promise of more to come from recordings of rehearsals and other performances.

From the moment I heard her recording of “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” in the late 1980s, through my purchase of all her CDs and my enjoyment of Jonathan Schwartz’s continued airing of her recordings on his shows from noon-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on WNYC-FM, I have been a student of her phrasing, her honesty, her warmth. Hearing all her recordings during my workday commutes reveals a refreshing lack of pretension, the occasional note held too long or the occasional showy approach to a well-known song notwithstanding. She sings the way I would like to sing around the piano with friends, on a stool on a cabaret stage, in my car to while away a long drive. From her recordings I’ve learned six songs, with more to follow and more to share with my massage clients and others. These are among my favorites, CD titles listed first:

  • “Broadway Baby” (1991) — showcasing the Warren-Merceer song “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby,” originally recorded by LaMott for the 1987 release “Mostly Mercer” and showing LaMott’s range from languid musicality to a growling, full-throttle blast of singing joy.
  • “Come Rain or Come Shine” (1992) — her full-album trribute to lyricist Johnny Mercer, with a glistening “Moon River,” a minimalist “On the Atchinson, Topeka & the Santa Fe,” an elegiac pairing of “Autumn Leaves” and “When October Goes,” an alternately drowsy then finger-snapping “Hit the Road to Dreamland,” and a lovely hushed-guitar “P.S. I Love You.”
  • “My Foolish Heart” (1993) — An understatedly whimsiccal and engaging “Rhode Island Is Famous for You,” an inviting “Two for the Road” and a bittersweet “Where Do You Start?”
  • “Listen to My Heart” (1995) — a consecutive quartet of story songs, lovely (“It Feels Like Home”) poignant (“The Lady Down the Hall,” “Not Exactly Paris”) and witty and lively (“Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?,” another Mercer gem).
  • “Just in Time for Christmas” (1995) — a playful “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”).
  • “What’s Good About Goodbye?” (1996, issued posthumously) — all seeming to reflect on a talent cut down in its prime, with the highlight being the title song paired with LaMottâ’s large-voiced lump-in-the-throat rendition of “The Promise” (“I’ll Never Say Goodbye”).
  • “Live at Tavern on the Green” (released 2005) — fromm a performance in October 1995, two months before her death, highlighted by “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” as emotionally deep an interpretation of a standard as ever you’re likely to hear.

More information on Nancy LaMott and her CDs:,

Hike of the month

Highlands Trail, Route 181 to Roseville Road, Byram, distance 8.6 miles

As mentioned in a prior newsletter, I love noticing the blazes of trails that intersect roads on which I drive. It makes me feel connected to the serenity of a woodlands walk even in the midst of a booming megalopolis.

And now I have new blazes to notice as I travel Sparta-Stanhope Road, a road I used to run when I lived in Stanhope from 1978-80 and that I used to drive in 1997 during my backroads commute from Middletown to the Somerset School of Massage Therapy.

Now visible from Sparta-Stanhope Road near the Hudson Guild Farm are the teal diamonds of the Highlands Trail. This a path in progress from Delaware River municipality Phillipsburg, N.J., to Storm King Mountain on the Hudson River in Cornwall, N.Y., has a new segment open, from Route 181 at Lake Hopatcong to Roseville Road in Byram.

Here’s the description of the new trail from

Follow Route 181 north from Lake Hopatcong up the hill. There is limited parking under the power line, on the southbound side. Proceed north about 600 feet, where the trail enters the woods to the left, ascending a hill. Cross a woods road and enter a low, wet area bounded on the west by a steep rise, which may be an old quarry wall, at 0.2 miles. At 0.4 miles, turn right on a grassy woods road, then bear left, crossing an exposed rock surface.

At 0.6 miles, turn left between two rocks, each about ten feet high, skirting a wetland. Cross a faint woods road at 0.7 miles. At 0.8 miles there is a view of the Kittatinny Ridge from the power line to the left. At 0.9 miles scramble down a rocky slope to a low, wet area, which takes the trail under the power line. At the top of the next ascent, at 1.1 miles, a fence joins from the left, which the trail follows with a power line on the right. After the end of the fence, turn left onto a faint track at 1.6 miles. Join a grassy woods road for a short distance before bearing right through sparse oak cover and rocky ground. Descend to a mountain laurel stand on the right and a small rocky rise on the left.

At 2.2 miles turn right, shortly crossing a small stream. A faint woods road joins from the left. At 1.8 miles, the Anderson Bypass, a 1.7 mile alternate route that is blazed with teal diamonds with black centers, continues on the faint woods road. To follow the main trail, turn left and ascend a rocky hill with sparse oak cover. At 2.5 miles there is a limited view to the south. Turn right and descend with a vertical rock face on the right to a mixed hardwood forest, reaching a woods road designated “Eves Mountain Road” at 2.6 miles.

A convenient terminus with parking may be reached by turning left on “Eves Mountain Road.” The road forks immediately, but the two forks soon rejoin. At 0.15 miles from the junction with the HT, bear left where there is an exposed rock surface on the right. At 0.27 miles turn left where the Hopatcong nature trail, with yellow blazes, joins from the right. Cross a footbridge, and avoid a trail and a fainter woods road diverging to the left. At 0.41 miles, a bypass with a bridge takes you around a wet area. Continue past the start of a gravel surface, and two driveways joining from the left, to Roland May Eves Mountain Inlet Sanctuary on Northwood Road, where there is parking (.56 miles from the Highlands Trail).

Continuing on the HT, pass through patches of Mountain Laurels and over small hills and reach the south junction with the Anderson Bypass, which joins the main trail from the right at 3.1 miles. At 3.3 miles enter the private property of the Hudson Guild Farm. From this point to Roseville Road, the HT is on Hudson Guild Farm property. Please stay on the trail and respect the property owners, who have graciously allowed the HT to pass through their property. The Hudson Guild Farms section is open daylight hours only, from March 1 to November 30.

At 3.8 miles reach an old woods road and an old water pump. Turn left and go down to Bear Pond, then follow the trail to the right as it follows the shoreline of Bear Pond, passing over a spillway and along a woods road. The trail turns right into the woods and passes over some small hills before going downhill to the Hudson Farm driveway. Turn left, and reach Route 605 Sparta-Stanhope Road at 4.8 miles.

Hudson Farm is a private estate. Please respect privacy of the owners, who have graciously allowed the Highlands Trail to cross their land. Follow the driveway directly out to Route 605.

Turn right on Route 605 and walk 7/10 of a mile, passing over a bridge, then a small culvert where limited parking for the next section is available on the left. At the top of a rise in the road the trail enters the woods to the left at 5.5 miles. After a short distance paralleling the road, ascend steeply, crossing under a power line, to a woods road and the junction of two rock walls.

Continue through an opening in one wall into a former agricultural area, then ascend a little further to a rocky, sparsely wooded ridge-top. The trail meanders through miniature valleys and alternating sparser and thicker tree cover, past many interesting erratics of varying sizes, and two viewpoints. Descend on a long, relatively gentle slope, ending at an old woods road near some abandoned mines. Turn left and walk down to the gate at Roseville Road at 8.6 miles. There is limited parking available across Roseville Road from the gate. Do not park in front of the gate.

Recipe of the month

Souper salad

There is only so much salad a vegan can consume. There are, however, different ways a salad can be prepared for consumption.

One way is to turn it into a soup or slaw for less chewing and quicker absorption of nutrients. Depending on the greens used, the consistency can vary from liquidy to a bit more fibrous.

Each morning I fill my food processor with half a red sweet pepper, half a green pepper, some baby carrots, half a cucumber, a handful of scallions and parsley, a handful of cherry tomatoes, a shredded leaf of a dried sea vegetable, a shredded leaf of kale, a sprinkle of Italian seasoning and Celtic sea salt and, to help me gain a bit of weight, two scoops of Thor’s Raw Power! Protein Superfood Blend ( The basic recipe is adaptable to whatever produce is fresh and to consumer’s taste.

I blend the ingredients and then pour and scrape the mixture all out into a resealable plastic container. I bring it to my daytime job and eat it with a spoon as I work. It goes down easily, a semi-sweet and satisfying late-morning snack.

Until next time … be well.

Dennis Sprick
The Heartful Touch
Massage and CranioSacral Therapy