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The performance of massage

Last summer, while driving to Boston to serve as a teaching assistant for an Upledger CranioSacral Pediatrics workshop, I popped into my car CD player the new-to-me 1996 release “Betty Buckley at Carnegie Hall.” I am a fan of Buckley’s fervent singing, and though I had missed seeing her introduce Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memories” in “Cats,” for which she had won a Tony Award, I had enjoyed her on Broadway in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “Triumph of Love” and, as Mama Rose, at the Paper Mill Playhouse in “Gypsy.”

Her Carnegie Hall performance was no less enthralling, and not only for Buckley. The warmly enveloping tempo for the opening “Hello Young Lovers” soon breaks free and sends Buckley’s soaring vocals into overdrive. The shimmering orchestration on “Some Enchanted Evening” recalls the song’s Bali Ha’i roots in “South Pacific.” The backup singers are sassy on “Now You Know” and vibrantly upfront on “Seasons of Love.”

All these elements — along with orchestra as a whole, delicately supportive when it wasn’t being smashingly full — allow Buckley to fill Carnegie Hall and the CD with the wattage of her vocal power. To hear her go full throttle at the start, go meditative, and then build toward her peak with “As if We’d Never Say Goodbye,” “Something’s Coming” and “With One Look” before letting loose with “Rose’s Turn” is to experience a singer fully confident of her instrument and talent. To hear her wind down the concert with the lesser-known but beautifully rendered last four songs — Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,” Barbra Streisand’s “Everything Must Change,” Jonathan Larson’s “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” and Leonard Bernstein’s “Build My House” from his 1950 Broadway production of “Peter Pan” — is to experience a performer sure of her exquisite choice of material and her ability to express these songs musically and dramatically.

For me, giving a massage is like experiencing “Betty Buckley at Carnegie Hall.” The expectancy of The Heartful Touch session with my client, paralleling the opening strains of the concert, heightens the initial sharing of touch, a la Buckley’s opening-song peaks, before the energy flows into the varying tempo of long gliding strokes on a body part and then shorter, deeper strokes on individual muscles. Like the performance, the massage builds toward some intense concentration, be it on the back or the shoulders, before once again shifting back to lighter and more soothing touch that brings the session to a satisfying conclusion.

“Betty Buckley at Carnegie Hall” has remained in my car for almost a year now, and I listen to it whenever I need a jolt of energy or a melodic dose of love. If you’d like, I can end your session the ways Buckley ends her concert — by singing “Build My House.” It’s the aural equivalent of a hug, a lovely way to end a lovely massage.

Spotlight on Technique

Hands might not receive nor merit the extended attention during a massage that the back receives, but they do deserve more than token touch. After attending to the arm, I head toward the hand by working my thumbs over the front of the wrist, the carpal tunnel area that, when overused and understretched, can lead to so much pain in this computer-keyboard age.

Then, grasping the back of the hand with my other eight fingers, I move my thumbs up to the palm of my client’s hand, several times stroking up toward the middle fingers and then outward toward the pinky and the thumb. Turning over the hand, I pull on the two different joints of each finger before spreading the hand between my hands and then thumbing the back of the wrists. Thus the hand has been stretched and massaged.

Spotlight on Stretching

The client can continue care for the hands with daily self-stretching, at home, in the office or wherever.

With arm outstretched and hand face down in a fist, place the thumb of the other hand on the down side of the wrist and the other fingers on the back of the hand. While breathing out, press the fist down and back toward the body for a count of two (one one-thousand, two one-thousand) before releasing the hand and breathing in. Do this 10 times and then do on the other hand.

With arm outstretched and palm down, place the palm of the other hand over the four outstretched fingers (not including the thumb) and, while breathing out, gently stretch the hand back for a count of two (one one-thousand, two one-thousand) before releasing the hand and breathing in. Do this 10 times and then do on the other hand.

Next, with arm outstretched and palm up, place the palm of the other hand over the outstretched fingers (not including the thumb) and, while breathing out, gently stretch the hand down for a count of two (one one-thousand, two one-thousand) before releasing the hand and breathing in. Do this 10 times and then do on the other hand.

With arm outstretched and palm facing away from the body, grasp the thumb and, while breathing out, gently pull down and away from the rest of the hand to make an L for a count of two (one one-thousand, two one-thousand) before releasing the hand and breathing in. Do this 10 times and then do on the other hand.

With arm outstretched, fingers pointing out and thumb up, use the other hand to grasp thumb between the other thumb and the index finger and, while breathing out, pull gently toward the body, for a count of two (one one-thousand, two one-thousand) before releasing the thumb and breathing in. Do this 10 times. Then grasp each finger and likewise, while breathing out, pull gently the finger toward the body. for a count of two (one one-thousand, two one-thousand) before releasing the finger and breathing in. Do this 10 times. Repeat on the thumb and the fingers on the other hand.

CranioSacrally Speaking

Recently, as I was performing CranioSacral Therapy on a new client who had never experienced it before, he said it was like “massage yoga.”

I understood immediately what he meant. Each different positioning of my hands to perform one step basic 10-Step Protocol provided both local and overall health benefits — release of tension, softening of the tissue and the like — just as one yoga posture also stretches one area of the body and increases overall circulation and balance.

I use the 10-Step Protocol as an overall relaxation technique. Working on the pelvis, spine, respirator and thoracic areas, throat, neck/skull ridge, forehead, back of the skull, sphenoid and temporal bones helps free up restrictions and supports the body’s self-healing mechanisms. Moreover, it also encourages the client to fall into a reverie or even into brief sleep. The sound of a client’s snoring is sweet sound to my ears.

So, even if you think that all you like or want is deep-tissue work, give CranioSacral Therapy a try. You might be pleasantly surprised how such a light-touch “massage yoga” will help your body armor fall away as you drift off into dreamland.

Hike of the Summer

Hacklebarney Loop


An introductory note from Dennis Sprick:

For years, my parents had hanging in their bedroom a photo of themselves from 1946, soon after they had met. My father, who had hair on his head then, had his arm around my mother, and both were wearing flannel shirts. They were seated in the woods of Hacklebarney State Park, and they looked very much in love.

For a twentysomething couple from urban Passaic County in the 1940s, Hacklebarney was quite an excursion, a 40-plus-mile drive to the wilds of western Morris County. It was no less an adventure in 1970 when my Aunt Marie Harrington and my cousins Cookey and Larry treated my younger brother Mike and me to a June picnic in Hacklebarney.

I remember walking from the parking lot onto a trail that kept taking us down and down into an unexpectedly cool and seemingly enchanted forest that had no bottom. Certainly the Harringtons must have thought that the woods had swallowed us up when Mike and I took an extended walk after dinner that led us much farther than we expected and took much more time than the Harringtons expected.

More than three decades have passed, yet the mystery of this state park remains. In occasional drives south on Route 206, I still find myself glancing west and wondering how yonder canopy of trees can hide the Black River so well as it flows deep into a pocket of cooling green refuge called Hacklebarney.

The report on Hacklebarney, from

Highlights: Waterfall, wild trout Streams, Black River, hemlock forest, deep ravines

Near: Chester, N.J.

Distance: 3 miles round trip

Elevation Gain: 456 ft.

Hike time: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: easy

Trail condition: Well maintained trail

Hike type: loop

Summary: This loop hike is great if you are looking to get out for the day but relax more than hike. The hike will take you down into the Black River as well as along Trout and Rhinehart Brook, hemlock ravines and mature hardwood forests. The trails are wide and have gravel put down.

If you want that challenge there are a few trails along the Black River that are more like hiking trails, narrow and rocky. This hike will take you through both trail types.

Along the trails you will pass many benches and picnic areas. There are also old water fountains along the way that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, during the Depression. They no longer work, though.

The best time to hike the area is during the week when you will only encounter fly fisherman. Weekends tend to get crowded.

Trailhead: Take Route 206 south into Chester. Then make a right onto County Route 513 west at Larison’s Turkey Farm. Go about a mile and make a left onto State Park Road. Take State Park Road until you hit Hacklebarney Road. Make a right onto Hacklebarney Road and park entrance will be on right about a mile down.

Best seasons: year-round

User groups: hikers, dogs

Ranger contact: Voorhees State Police, 908-638-6969

Localhikes reporter: This hike was submitted by Shawn Viggiano, who has posted 42 other hikes on this site.

Trail Reviews:

Reviewed by dwg on 5/3/2005

Brought my son’s Cub Scout pack and they loved it. Especially scampering over the rocks by the waterfall and down by the river. Make sure you pick up a trail map. The main trails are wide and excellent condition for everyone. Some of the lesser trails shown as —— on the map may be too rocky for neophytes. One of the Cub Scouts’ parental units thought these minor trails were too “wild.” I guess he expected all the trails to be wide open like the main trail. But the kids loved it, and so did most of the parents.

Reviewed by Hart Coven on 4/20/2005

Beautiful place to hike or spend the day enjoying the scenery. Very good place for a family hike — there are plenty of choices for longer and shorter loops, and the trails are well maintained and easy for smaller children. — Hart,

Reviewed by MD on 4/18/2005

Well-described. Make sure you pick up a trail map when you start so you can make the best of the park. Although there are unmarked trails, you can’t really get lost. More of a hidden picnic area and best visited during apple-picking season for cider, doughnuts, etc. Once you have the map, you can hike several loops to make the mileage you desire.

Reviewed by Bestbugz on 3/15/2005

This is a nice hike, I actually had my wife and small children on this one to break the hiking ice with them. We all had fun, and it’s an easy one to get started on.

Recipe of the Summer

Creamy Avocado Gazpacho

(Courtesy of

1 cup water
Flesh of 1 medium avocado, reserving 1 tablespoon for garnish
2 cups chopped cucumber
1 and a half cups chopped tomatoes
1 serrano chile, with seeds, sliced (optional)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 sprig mint leaves
Juice of 2 lemons or limes
Half a teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup (can use dates or honey to sweeten)

2 small mint leaves
Paprika (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a blender in the order listed. Start blender on low speed for a few seconds, then switch to high. Blend until creamy and smooth, about 1 1/2 minutes.

Pour into 2 soup bowls. Dice reserved avocado and gently drop them into the center of the bowl. Add a mint leaf and sprinkle diced avocado with paprika if desired. Serves 2.

Until next time … stay in Heartful Touch.

Dennis Sprick
The Heartful Touch
Massage and CranioSacral Therapy