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Farewell to 2005

Letting go, moving on, reaching out: In a time of war and terror, high prices and natural disasters, these are mantras to live by, this year and always.

As I write this, the last 12 months have been bookended by significant events — the death of my aunt and godmother, Laurene Petruff, age 81, on Dec. 26, 2004; the death of my former singing teacher, Elizabeth Styres, age 102, on Jan. 31; and the sale of what once was viewed as a potential retirement house in Georgia on Oct. 26.

Coming five months after the death of her brother, the passing of my aunt leaves my 84-year-old mother as the last of the five Claudepierre siblings. Fortunately, during our trip to Florida in May 2004 for my niece Marissa’s high school graduation, my mother and I got to visit her sister one more time. Also fortunately, during my singing teacher’s 100th birthday party in 2002, my mother and I shared time and memories and music with Elizabeth, in a way that now seems like a fitting close to that important chapter in my life.

Letting go of the view of the house in Georgia as a place to spend retirement years was easy with the realization the house no longer fit either geographic or physical needs. Selling the house proved more problematic. It was on the market for 18 months, interrupted by a five-month rental, until the perfect buyers were found — they wanted to live next door to their friends — and the deal was closed in October. And a big sigh of financial relief was heard at 127 Elm St. in Montclair, where thought processes were churning as to how to redirect the money previously allocated to the Georgia house mortgage.

Certainly some attention will be paid to the Montclair house itself, which acquired new downspouts and front roofing in 2005, and to massage-related courses to bolster a therapy practice that, thanks to new and longtime supportive clients, is on target in 2005 to match or even better a best-ever 2004.

One course taken in 2005 was a gratifying CranioSacral Therapy internship in the treatment of children with autism and other conditions. The other was “Healing From the Core,” which reinforced my need to be grounded and hold a healing space for my clients and which introduced me to a vibrant movement regimen known as Continuum that I hope to explore more in depth in 2006. I also served as a teaching assistant for the basic CranioSacral course and, in doing so, I was reunited with my former chiropractor, Luviajane Swanson, who served as the course instructor. It was Luviajane who encouraged me to go to massage school and then study CranioSacral Therapy.

Like Luviajane and Elizabeth, another mentor continued to makes his presence felt in my life in 2005. The publication of an Alumni Bulletin tribute that I wrote to my late Lehigh University physiotheraphist Jim Mathews continued to generate letters to the Alumni Bulletin. It also found its way via the Internet to Matthew Mieras, a 25-year-old named after Jim who grew up hiking and fishing with the good man and who quite unexpectedly found himself executor of Jim’s estate when Jim passed on in 2003. In trying to learn more about Jim, Matt turned to the Internet, found my story and my name, which he remembered from a 1975 letter I had written to Jim that were among Jim’s personal effects. What’s more, he found my e-mail address, and so we’ve been corresponding ever since.

A new mentor is Russ Teitsma, who, serving as my personal trainer twice weekly, empowers me to lift free weights, strengthen my core muscles and tone my slim frame. And, whether he’s recording a CD of organ music or growing orchids that dazzle his co-workers and delight potential buyers at his Montclair Orchids Web site , my housemate Frank Johnston continues to inspire and support me.

Amid the highlights of any year are the day-to-day routines that are the foundation of our lives, and the people and pets and things that help sustain us. And so I share time with my mother during our weekly shopping trips and take time for family and friends, including my bubbly buddy Nancy Martyn, during birthday and holiday gatherings. I reach out over the Internet to my many massage clients, to my webmaster Win Day, and to longtime friends Jean Wright, Gary White, Bob Nelson and others.

With the help of Middletown Honda, I take care to maintain for my long daily commute a high-functioning Honda Civic, 5 years old and on the cusp of 200,000 miles. I praise Hallelujah Acres for its nutritional products and wisdom, and I’m glad to have a Whole Foods Supermarket in Montclair.

I am happy for my time in the early morning to prepare our meals for the day and share in the whistles, chirps and squawks of our parrots, Romeo, Rambo and Zephyr. I am grateful for my residence, for its comfortability and for providing a site for my massage practice. And I am ever hopeful as I reach out to you, massage clients, Web site visitors, friends and all, to wish you a healthful, holistic, expansive new year.

Technique of the month


Whenever an emotion or situation threatens to cause you to lose control, try this simple yet profound exercise to center yourself back in your body.

If you are seated, lift your feet and feel your heels upon the ground. Feel your “sits” bones upon the chair and your spine against the back of the chair. Rub your hands on your knees and, while breathing deeply, imagine drawing energy through the bottom of your feet through your knees and up your legs. When that stream of energy reaches your torso, imagine that it’s joined by energy coming in from the earth through the base of your genitals so that this dual stream becomes a powerful current running up your spine and up and through your head, exiting at the crown. You are at once rooted in the earth and your body, unaffected and neutral in any currents that seek to sweep you up in negativity. You are also as one with the universal energy that surrounds you and is you.

If you are standing, lean back on your heels a bit to feel the connection with the ground and the earth energy. Then, as before, envision your roots sinking deep and wide into the earth and breath that earth energy up through your legs and torso, spine and head until it streams out the crown of your skull. Continue this breathing, this visioning, until you feel centered, neutral and re-energized once more.

Hike of the month, courtesy of

The Trail Less Traveled NJ

Highlights: Great views, crystal clear lake, deep woods, secluded

Near: Sussex, N.J.

Distance: 9 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 382 feet

Hike time: 4 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Trail condition: Well maintained trail

Hike type: loop

Summary: The trail starts at the Appalachian Trail overnight parking lot at the entrance to High Point State Park. Take the AT south past the first intersection with the Iris Trail. Go about .5 miles and make a right onto the Blue Dot Trail. Take Blue Dot to ledges for some of the greatest views around.

Retrace your steps to the AT. Continue south on the AT for another .5 miles and you come to more views of Lake Rutherford. At around 3 miles you come to the second intersection of the Iris. Continue on the AT until you come to the third and final intersection with the Iris. Take a right onto the Iris heading down hill. You will go through a nice valley and then back onto the ridge for a short while. Then you cross over the AT.

Make sure you stay on the Iris Trail. You will descend into another valley. Then you will eventually come to Lake Rutherford, one of the most beautiful lakes in New Jersey and very secluded. At this point you will hike the last 2 miles through some neat rocks and then finally come back to the start.

Trailhead: From Sussex Borough, take Route 23 north about 8 miles. Parking lot is next to park office on left. Sign says AT overnight parking.

Best seasons: year-round

Contact: High Point State Park 973-875-4800 Localhikes reporter: This hike was submitted by Shawn Viggiano, who has posted 42 other hikes on

Recipe of the month

Warming South Florida Pumpkin Chowder

By Steve Petusevsky, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Steve Petusevsky is the author of “The Whole Foods Market Cookbook” (Clarkson Potter, 2002).

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil
1 large red onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups calabaza squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (you can also use butternut squash, sweet potato or even all-purpose potatoes)
2 quarts vegetable broth or water
2 cups orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
Salt, to taste
cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted (see note), for garnish
8 scallions, chopped, for garnish

In a nonreactive large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, chili peppers, cinnamon sticks and thyme. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized.

Add the squash, broth or water and orange juice; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25 to 30 minutes until squash is tender. Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the lime juice and salt.

You can puree the soup in a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade (this may have to be done in batches) or use an immersion blender, if you like a smooth, creamy consistency. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and scallions.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

To toast pumpkin seeds, place on a baking sheet in a 350°F. oven 5 minutes until golden.

Until next time … keep in Heartful Touch.

Dennis Sprick
The Heartful Touch
Massage and CranioSacral Therapy