The Journal Late Winter 2024

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Late Winter 2024 Uniting the Upper Delaware River Region of PA, NJ & NY
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Publisher & Editor

Amy Bridge

Cover Line

“…and then there was one little chickadee sitting all alone,” based on a nursery rhyme.

Graphic Design

Maureen Taylor

Associate Editor

B’Ann Bowman

Advertising Team

Amy Bridge

Susan Mednick

The Journalists

Kate Gordon • Bob Chernow • Alison Porter

Robyn Oakes • Thomas Mulligan

Eric Francis

The tri-state upper Delaware River highlands and valleys are a place of rare beauty…

Seeing the region and living in it almost aren’t enough. Such beauty should be captured on canvas or film so that one can truly appreciate it, glimpse it in the quiet of an art gallery or museum, or between the pages of a poetry book or literary sketch.

The Journal Group’s mission is to capture these momentary snapshots of beauty graphically and through the written word. We celebrate our area and the uniqueness of the people who live and work in the tri-state region. From Pike to Wayne and Monroe to Lackawanna Counties in Pennsylvania, upriver to Sullivan County and on to Orange County in New York, and to the headwaters of the Wallkill River and

Kimberly Hess

Editorial Readers

Robert Bowman Amy Smith

The Poet

Amy Bridge


along Warren and Sussex Counties’ rolling hills in New Jersey, with quaint, historic towns and hamlets at the center, the Journal Group opens its doors to our communities, businesses and organizations, to serve as a communicative journal of all that we have to offer for those who live here and for those who love to visit us, too.

Publication Information

The Journal Group publishes The Journal ten times a year and distributes it in eight counties in PA, NJ and NY. We assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts. Contents may not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission. We reserve the right to refuse to print advertisements that we deem inappropriate. All rights reserved.

Late Winter 2024
5 Contents 12 • art • Rachel Z 16 • food • Warm Weekends 20 • history • It’s a Zither 26 • life • A Stitch into Time 30 • nature • Winter’s Solitude 6 • journal entry 7 • poem 10 • around the towns 34 • signs Late Winter 2024 From the Collection of the Mercer Museum Library of the Bucks County Historical Society

Journal Entry

Snowflakes, diamonds, and salt are all forms of crystal. When honoring a 15-year anniversary, otherwise known as the crystal anniversary, one could take it with a grain of salt, but I prefer to look at this year of achievement as a diamond. Snowflakes, of course, are beautiful but vanish way too soon.

When crystals are formed, they go through a process known as crystallization. I liken this to the process of growing a small business: Ideas crystallize into a solid product. In this case, I’m talking about a Journal.

In nature, many crystal structures bond together to form a gemstone or perhaps a stalagmite. The type of crystal that is eventually formed has to do with chemistry and symmetry.

The same is true with a small business. As business entrepreneurs, we guide the process that bonds a product with

a community and make sure the proper chemistry is there.

For The Journal, symmetry happens when there is synergy between the reader and the writer, between the advertiser and the consumer, and, ultimately, between the magazine and the communities it serves.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve been considered a fabric of the community. We’ve even been called a love letter to the arts, and for that I’m very proud.

It’s been an amazing time, always a pleasure to work with our editing, design, and sales professionals. I would like to thank everybody who has contributed to making The Journal a crystal that has been shining on in our corner of the earth for 15 years now!

A Milestone

Cat Talk

Too young to be old, I say to my cat. He purrs in complete agreement.

We’re getting on, he hears my words. Acknowledging  years between us.

Our fluffy bodies lead the way. Fur coating what once was.

A cat and human bond as one. Time slows, as seldom does.

A simple exchange of love takes place. The sentiments wholeheartedly meant.

For what is age the poet asks. Cat answers It’s just us.

Age can’t define not you or me. The love we have not spent.

As morning fog descends on day, our purring reminisce went.



Sat., March 16th, 10am-5pm

The plants have taken over!!!

Pots, Soil and of course PLANTS!

12 noon, short talk on basic houseplant care and basic transplanting demo.

Free plant to the first 50 people. Buy a plant, add a bit of life to your home.

Facebook at The Potting Shed

931 Ann Street • Stroudsburg, PA 570.424.1174 • email:


Route 2001 (Water St.) 570-296-9610


Route 6 • 570-226-9726


Church & 6th Sts. • 570-253-1860

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Around the Towns

Late Winter

March 1st

Friday 7 p.m.

Hanna Q Dance Company Performance. St Patrick’s Event Hall, Milford, PA. $40. Supports Hanna Q Dance Company. Info:

March 2nd

Saturday 11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.

Lunch & Learn: Habitats–Protecting and Creating Sanctuaries. Forest Hall, Milford, PA. Featuring Greg Wojtera of Masters of the Skies who will speak about the importance of habitats for wildlife. Hot lunch provided. $13–$18. Hosted by Grey Towers Heritage Association. Info: 570.296.9630, greytowers. org.

1 p.m.

March 4th

Monday 5:30–8:30 p.m.

Information Session: Becoming a CASA Volunteer. Milford, PA. Virtual training on being a Court Appointed Special Advocate for a child. Hosted by CASA of Pike. Repeated once a week for 8 weeks. Info: 570.296.9827,

March 9th

Saturday 8:30 a.m.

Woodland Birds Walk. Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, Sussex, NJ. Great for beginning bird watchers. Hosted by the Sussex County Bird Club. Info: www.sussexcounty

9 a.m.

Snowball’s Chance Mountain Bike Poker Ride, Hike & Walk. Port Jervis, NY. “Funraiser” for the WaterShed Trails of Port Jervis. Info: Facebook: Snowball’s Chance.

Drum Circle for the Community. GAIT Therapeutic Riding Center, Milford, PA. An interactive session of rhythm and connection. Continues the first Saturday of each month. Info: 570.409.1140,

4:30–9:00 p.m.

March 13th

Wednesday 7:30–9:00 p.m. 31


• April 19 • Eric Person Quartet

HTEF’s Winter Dinner Dance. The Barn at Hillside Park, Andover, NJ. Dinner, open bar & live music. $60. Supports Hampton Township Educational Foundation. Info:

6:30–9:30 p.m.

Winter Warm-Up. River’s Edge, Barryville, NY. Dinner, dancing, silent auction. Hosted by Greater Barryville Chamber of Commerce. $75. Benefits scholarships, beautification, and community programs. Info:

March 2nd & 3rd

Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m.

Sugar Shack Scramble. PEEC, Dingmans Ferry, PA. Hike to “Two Saps” Sugar Shack for hot cocoa & pancakes with fresh maple syrup. $15. Info: 570.828.2319,

March 3rd

Sunday 3 p.m.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Barney Blast. Front Street, Port Jervis, NY. Bagpipers, parade floats, trophies & more! Hosted by Port Jervis Tourism Board. Info: 973.534.4177,, Facebook: St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Barney Blast.

4–6 p.m.

Winter Jazz Concert. The Columns Museum, Milford, PA. Jazz Legend Ronny White & Friends. Special Guest: Amy London. $60. Info: 570.296.8126, events.

Minimalist Photography. Sparta Ambulance Building, Sparta, NJ. A virtual presentation on the key aspects of minimalist photography: simplicity, negative space, a single subject, by Canadian photographer Judy Hancock Holland. Hosted by the Sparta Camera Club. Info:

March 16th

Saturday 11 a.m.

Sussex County St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Newton, NJ. Floats, animals, bands, fire trucks. Sponsored by the Newton Fire Department. Info:

3 p.m.

Beethoven’s Dream. Sparta High School, Sparta, NJ. Music from his greatest symphonies. Featuring winner of the Karen Pinoci Young Artists Competition. $10–$15. Info: 973.579.6465,

March 17th

Sunday 1 p.m.

1st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Milford, PA. Starts at Ann Street Memorial Park. Info: 201.396.0786, www.stpatsparademilfordpa. com.

March 21st

Thursday 5:30 p.m.

Route 15 South Lake Hopatong, New Jersey Old School Barber Shop!!! Featuring Today’s Styles Beard Trim, Hair Cut & More Call For Appointments Scan the QR Code For Our New Site & App Where You Can: Schedule Online, Pre-Pay, And Make Appointment Reminders Via Text Message
Celebration of Charity and Caritas Awards Dinner. Kartrite Resort, Monticello, NY. Includes silent auction. $175. Benefits local Catholic charities programs. Hosted by Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster. Info/tickets: 845.294.5124, Jersey Ave, Port Jervis 845-754-1808
Artist Reception featuring Gordon Graff, Artist / Owner Groove-Port Presents:
Saturday • March 2
• March 23 • Glen Heller Trio Groove-Port Presents:

March 23rd

Saturday 11:30 a.m.–2:00 p.m.

Lunch & Learn: Conversations with Women Making a Difference. Forest Hall, Milford, PA. Featuring Suzanne Levine, Amy Litzenberger & Amy Ferris. Hot lunch provided. $13–$18. Hosted by Grey Towers Heritage Association. Info: 570.296.9630, greytowers. org.

2–4 p.m.

Sparta Easter Egg Hunt. Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Sparta, NJ. Kids from walking to 10 years old and their families. Bring a camera, basket, and non-perishable food donation for Connect for Community. Info: 973.729.7010,

3–4 p.m.

The Biology of Fish. Van Scott Nature Reserve, Beach Lake, PA. Take a deeper look into the anatomy and world of fish! Hosted by Delaware Highlands Conservancy. Registration required. $5–$10, children under 12 free. Info: 570.226.3164,

March 27th

Wednesday 6:00 p.m.

SCARC Foundation Honors Celebration. Perona Farms, Andover, NJ. Reception, live music, dinner, auction & raffles. $175. Supports services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Info: 973.383.7442,

March 30th

Saturday 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Victorian Tea Party. Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, Stroudsburg, PA. Come dressed in your best, enjoy traditional finger foods, and learn to host your own tea party with lessons in etiquette. Parent and one child/$35. Each additional child/$25. Info: 570.992.6161,

April 4th–6th, 8th–13th

Sister-to-Sister Prom Shop. Project SelfSufficiency, Newton, NJ. Donated gently used formal wear. Info: 973.940.3500,

April 5th

Friday 6–11 p.m.

Chamber’s Choice Gala. Villa Venezia, Middletown, NY. Dinner, dancing & more. $300. To honor the Champion of the Chamber. Hosted by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. Info/tickets: 845.294.1700,

April 6th

Saturday 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Over and Under the Pond. Van Scott Nature Reserve, Beach Lake, PA. Listen to the story and learn about animal life in and around the water. Registration required. $15. Info: 570.226.3164,

Noon–1:30 p.m.

Pinchots and Friends: Building America. Grey Towers National Historic Site, Milford, PA. Learn how the Pinchots influenced American development. Hosted by Grey Towers Heritage Association. Info: 570.296.9630,

April 11th–14th

Thursday–Friday 7 p.m.

Saturday 6 p.m. Sunday 2 p.m.

Les Misérables. Wallenpaupack Area High School, Hawley, PA. Presented by the WAHS Players. Adults $8, Students $5, Senior Citizens Free. Info: wahsplayers.

April 13th

Saturday 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

Mediterranean Cooking Class. PEEC, Dingmans Ferry, PA. Make a falafel platter and Shawarma-style chicken. All supplies and lunch included. $25. Ages 16+. Preregistration required. Info: 570.828.2319,

April 14th

Sunday 2 p.m.

Lincoln: Rail Splitter to President. Delaware Township Municipal Building, Dingmans Ferry, PA. Interactive dramatic program. Hosted by Dingmans Ferry-Delaware Township Historical Society. Free. Info: dingmans

4–8 p.m.

Fish & Chips Dinner. Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Sparta, NJ. Proceeds will support the outreach ministry of Shepherd of the Hills. Takeout available 4–5 p.m., dine in 5–8 p.m. Adults $20–22, Children $12–$14. Info/tickets: 973.729.7010,

April 26th–27th

Friday–Saturday Noon

Pocono Dulcimer Festival. First Methodist Church, East Stroudsburg, PA. Classes for players of all levels, ending with a concert on Saturday. Info:

April 27th

Saturday 11 a.m.–3 p.m.

Spring Fling. Wurtsboro, NY. Crafts, duck race & more. Sponsored by Wurtsboro Board of Trade. Info:

11 a.m.–4 p.m.

Earth Day Festival. PEEC, Dingmans Ferry, PA. $5/car. Hikes, crafts, food, music & more. Info: 570.828.2319,

April 28th

Sunday 8–9 a.m.

Jim Zamos Memorial Hyper Humus Nature Walk. Paulinskill River Wildlife Management Area, Sussex County, NJ. Hosted by the Sussex County Bird Club. Info: www.sussex

Rachel Z. Photo by John Abbott

Always Sound Good Rachel Z

Rachel Nicolazzo, better known as Rachel Z, a two-time Grammy Award winner, is a virtuoso jazz and rock pianist and keyboardist. She is also a highly respected professor of jazz and contemporary music studies in the College for the Performing Arts at The New School, a university in New York City.

Rachel is considered one of the most influential and versatile musical forces of her generation.

My journey with Rachel Z began over a decade ago. In 2010, Rachel and her husband, Omar Hakim, drummer of Weather Report fame, formed their new band Trio of OZ, released its first CD, and began touring. Rachel Z and Omar also launched OZmosys Records during that same year.

On one of the gigs, the drum tech/ transporter couldn’t make the show, so I volunteered to do the job of getting Omar’s drum kit to the venue. From that day, I would transport Rachel’s keyboards, rigs, and equipment to future shows. Eventually, I was doing public relations work and booking occasional gigs for her.

and practiced improvisational music on my piano from that day forward.”

In addition to her talent on the acoustic piano and electric keyboards, at the age of eighteen Rachel began writing and composing songs. After finishing high school, she went to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where her roommate was jazz and classical violinist Regina Carter.

It was during this time that Rachel performed at Boston venues and night clubs. She also got her first gig as a bandleader at the 1369 Club. At the Riles Club, Rachel performed with multi-Grammy winner, trumpeter, flugelhornist, and composer, Randy Brecker.

Rachel’s story begins in the 1960s in the Cedar Lake section of Denville, in Morris County, NJ. “As far back as I can remember, I was playing the piano,” Rachel reflects. When she heard her older cousin playing, she immediately copied him. At the age of six, her parents purchased her first piano, but there was a caveat. Rachel recalls, “I had to take classical piano lessons from a classical teacher. But,” she adds, “I couldn’t relate to him; he really wasn’t a nice person.”

Rachel’s mother, who was an opera singer and taught voice, would say, “Someday, you’ll thank me.” Rachel learned discipline, accumulated a library of music books, and practiced her striata, sonatas, interludes, and cantatas.

The arts were a big part of Rachel’s childhood. Her father was an art teacher who directed local theater and painted the sets. And every Friday and Saturday evening were family nights at the Metropolitan Opera in Manhattan.

Throughout grade school, Rachel only played classical music and opera. As she puts it, “I didn’t know rock, pop, or jazz music until one day my father gave me 15 Reflective Recordings, an album by Miles Davis. I loved the album

“My dream and plan for after the Conservatory was to move to New York City,” she says. “I had begun to live by the credo, ‘always sound good.’ This principle, of course, goes beyond the three words, and includes look and sound good, know your material, and you’ll sound good on stage and in the studio.” She saved some money from her Boston gigs and fulfilled her dream of moving to the City.

One of her first steady gigs was at Michael’s in Midtown. Rachel started playing rock tunes, as well as jazz and pop, and went all out on electronic equipment. She purchased multiple electric keyboards, a power amp, two 90-pound cabinets, a 16-space rack, and a Bose rig. With the advent of fusion music, New York-based saxophonist Najee suggested that Rachel purchase a synthesizer. She purchased her first synthesizer, a Rhodes, and later a Minimoog. Shortly thereafter, Rachel co-write “Tokyo Blue” with Najee. The record was a Grammy Award winner and a Certified Gold Record.

From 1988 to 1995, Rachel played electric keyboards and acoustic piano in Steps Ahead, vibes player Mike Mainieri’s fusion band. She reflects on her days with bandleader Mainieri, affirming, “Steps Ahead was a good run; I lived in New York City the entire time.” The band released their album N.Y.C. to rave reviews in 1989, and Rachel took the sobriquet, Rachel Z, given to her by Mainieri.

While she was performing with Steps Ahead, both Blue Note Records and Columbia Records were vying to sign her up for a record deal. Dr. George Butler, the head

Continued on next page

Performing with Peter Gabriel on the Growing Up Live tour. Photo by John Abbott

of Columbia Records, came out on top and sealed a $1 million deal with Rachel Z for writing and publishing ten solo albums. While doing so, she was free to perform and record with other artists, including Steps Ahead.

One of her solo albums, On the Milky Way Express, was a dazzling homage to her friend and mentor Wayne Shorter, and another, Moon at the Window, was a lovely tribute to Joni Mitchell in which Rachel Z and her all-woman trio interpreted a dozen Mitchell compositions.

The story behind this began when Rachel was performing with Steps Ahead at the North Sea Jazz Festival. There she met Wayne Shorter and asked if he would play on her next record with Columbia. Shorter was signed to Elektra and couldn’t record on other labels, but he was so impressed by Rachel that he invited her to work with him.

At this point in her musical career, Rachel Z was adept at Digital Performer, an audio-editing program for Macintosh, so she would help arrange Shorter’s compositions. “I grew up surrounded by opera and the symphony and had that knowledge, so I knew what Wayne wanted in an orchestral sound,” Rachel says. “But I didn’t actually orchestrate his work, I just followed his instructions.”

In December 1994, Wayne Shorter flew Rachel Z out to Los Angeles and put her up in a hotel; eventually she moved in with the Shorter family. Work began on Shorter’s album, High Life. With some wrangling by his lawyers, he was released from his Elektra contract and signed with Verve Records in April 1995. High Life was Shorter’s recording debut on Verve Records.

Rachel Z was responsible for the album’s 40 tracks of synthesized orchestral sounds and acoustic piano solos. She worked closely with producer Marcus Miller in the studio to mesh the synth orchestra with the live ensemble to create a unique and innovative soundscape. High Life was released on October 17, 1995, and won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1996.

Rachel Z also played keyboards and acoustic piano in Shorter’s band on several concurrent world tours. Sadly, Shorter passed away in March 2023.

Rachel met and spent time with Joni Mitchell at Mitchell’s Beverly Hills estate while recording High Life. “When I was a teenager,” Rachel remembers, “Joni’s music helped me navigate through life’s awkward years. It shed light and hope on the newfound rigors of adulthood.”

While Rachel Z was working on Shorter’s album, Wayne said he was going to play on a song for Mitchell’s forthcoming CD and invited Rachel along to Joni’s house for the session. Rachel reminisces, “It was a great day. Joni had an impressive studio where she and Wayne proceeded to make beautiful, intense music together. Joni followed

14 Art Continued
Top left: Performing with Peter Gabriel on the Growing Up Live tour. Photo by John Abbott. Middle: Rachel Z in the recording studio. Photo by John Abbott. Bottom: Sensual CD cover. Photo by Christopher Vernale In the book Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter (2004) by Michelle Mercer, part of one chapter is dedicated to Rachel Z and the making of the album, High Life. Omar Hakim is mentioned in another chapter, which covers the Weather Report era. The book will be for sale at Rachel Z’s 2024 concerts, which will include a gig for the Sensual CD Release Party at 8:30 p.m. at the Iridium, March 29th, 1650 Broadway, NY. For additional concert dates, check

every line that Wayne played, and it sounded to me as if they were singing a duet. I was in heaven!

“A few weeks later, I was at a party with Joni, and she told me that when people talk to plants, electrons heat up and cause them to grow. Joni thought about things like that, which made me realize that I had a lot of artistic growing to do. More thinking was needed—more time alone with my art, perhaps. I wrote a song for Joni called ‘Talking to Electrons.’

“Then, back in New York, I was playing jazz by day and alt rock by night. While playing with Steps Ahead, I was introduced to Peter Gabriel and performed on two of his Growing Up Live tours from 2002 to 2006.”

Peter Gabriel’s tours and subsequent three albums and two DVDs gave Rachel the opportunity to widen her fan base and work with jazz and progressive rock musicians.

She has made over ten albums as a co-leader with her husband, drummer Omar Hakim, in their two bands, Trio of OZ and OZmosys. She has also recorded thirty albums as a session player and/or band member with musicians such as Al Di Meola, Pino Daniele, Regina Carter, Stanley Clarke & Lenny White, Gino Vannelli, Hilary & Bob James, and Bobby Watson.

In June 2018, I was with Rachel Z and Omar Hakim during the debut performance of their new band OZmosys at our favorite club, the Falcon in Marlboro, NY. The alt jazz project had been rehearsing in Denville, NJ, and Catskill, NY, and recording their first album in Rachel Z with Wayne

the Catskills. They were preparing for a New England and NY State tour that included the Rochester Jazz Festival; a trip to Great Britain, with a performance at the London Jazz Festival; and a European Concert Tour to finish off the year, followed by an Asian Concert Tour in February 2019.

In sadness, our friend Tony Falco of the Falcon club died from complications of Covid in 2021. Tony’s son, Lee, has taken over the Falcon, and in the fall of 2023, Rachel previewed songs from her new album, Sensual, there. With an impressive twelve solo albums to her credit, this newest album is set for release in March, followed by a 2024 Sensual Concert Tour.

On Sensual, Rachel Z and her trio continue to live by the credo of sounding good, creating an eclectic rockjazz-world piano sound and showcasing several exciting compositions by Wayne Shorter during the Weather Report and High Life period, as well as music influenced by the compositional techniques that he specifically taught to Rachel.

The London Times has lauded Rachel Z as “an improvisor whose spontaneous playing is by no means eclipsed by the work of presiding geniuses such as Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner.” And John Fordham of The Guardian states, “Beyond her compelling solo career, Rachel Z’s influence extends as a trailblazer for women in music.”

Tom Mulligan is a writer, literary agent, and publicist. He represents Rachel Z and other musicians including Rhee and Brian Kastan, Christine Spero, and Arthur Sadowsky.

Shorter and Omar Hakim. Photo by Carolina Shorter

A Cozy Winter Weekend

There is something special about winter air when it is heavy with moisture and the possibility of snow. It brings back childhood memories of wishing for a school cancellation due to bad weather.

These were the absolute best days of the entire school year. Ordinary routines and rules were tossed out the window. We did not, as our mother suggested, take the opportunity to finish up an overdue school project. We did, most definitely, lounge around in pajamas for a luxuriously long time, only to throw on clothes with amazing speed to go outside and build a snow fort.

Time seemed suspended on these days, and it felt like we had had a week’s vacation when we returned to class the next day, refreshed, albeit with the homework still undone.

I love that feeling when time doesn’t exist, and all things are possible. For me, this peace still can be found in the deepest days of winter, when the gray air hangs low between day and night. Today, I bow to the wisdom of nature, and try to honor the season of stillness by

hibernating, if not for months on end, then at least for a few weekends, preferably sipping hot chocolate by a warm fire with nowhere special to go.

Deep winter calls for cozy comfort time, which, paradoxically, requires a certain amount of planning and shopping ahead of time. In addition to a supermarket trip with a list worthy of an arctic expedition, this may include inviting a few friends over, (or alternatively, turning off the phone entirely), unboxing a new board game, laying in some firewood, and choosing a new book to crack open. The possibilities are almost endless. But definitely stock up on food. Nothing dampens the mood more than a treacherous trip to the store to pick up a forgotten item, such as coffee or milk.

Truly, there is nothing more luxurious and satisfying than knowing I can set foot outside at any time during a snowy weekend, eyeball the black ice on the driveway, and be able to say, “Not today, Winter!” I delight in my freedom to choose to take off my coat and settle right back down and snuggle on the couch.

17 Continued on next page

Although I enjoy entertaining, when I do, I also strive to have as relaxing a time as those who are with me. By trial and error, over the years, I have developed an approach to casual hosting that works pretty well for all of us.

When friends visit for a snowed-in sleepover, I make a variety of dishes and put them all out. Then everyone helps themselves. You could call it an all-day buffet. People load up their plates and graze and pick at the offerings for as long as they want to.

The food is comfort food with a twist, and I generally make three times as much as I think anyone could possibly eat. I have seen very skinny people eat half their weight in hash brown potatoes. I have seen almost-vegetarians chow down on a half-pound of bacon. The dreary cold weather definitely plays tricks on people’s appetites. At this time of year, more is definitely better.

In the morning, I am usually the first one up, so I get the breakfast bar going as I make coffee. This consists of all those things that are supposed to encourage a long and healthy antioxidant- and fiber-filled life. It includes yogurt, berries, nuts, seeds, granola, and local honey. I am a big fan of chia seeds, but sunflower, flax, and pumpkin are great too, along with oats. I love almonds, but I try to mix it up with the other types of nuts because each variety has its own specific nutritional superpower.

Food Continued 18

All these healthy lifestyle choices can be too much for some people, including me, so my next area is the beverage station. Here I set up a selection of juices, including my favorite, passion fruit. The juices are great alone and mix delightfully with champagne, which makes the morning more festive for some or at least tolerable for others. Over by the coffee area, I provide whipped cream and whiskey to further liven up the day.

While I sip my coffee, I gather all the ingredients for the standard weekend fare, consisting of a frittata, French toast, bacon, and hash browns. These are tried and true favorites, simple to make and easily doubled or even tripled. They also lend themselves to happy snacking straight out of the pan.

The frittata is a kitchen-sink type of concoction, where I rummage around in the fridge for leftovers, usually vegetables, and warm them with some oil in a large cast iron pan. If I don’t have that much in the way of leftovers, it is easy enough to chop up and sauté vegetables such as peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach in the pan. The next step is to whisk together eight eggs with ½ cup of milk, add to the pan, and then season the mixture liberally with salt and pepper. A little shredded cheese on top never hurts. Then I pop it into a 350-degree oven for about twenty minutes or until golden brown. It is delicious both warm and at room temperature.

My versions of French toast and bacon each offer a twist on standard recipes. Fancy French Toast is a sophisticated version of the brunch staple, with the addition of espresso powder and other flavorings. Beware of feeding this to children! Temporary mayhem may ensue. Bacon Supreme is at once spicy and sweet, and highly addictive. Both of these dishes are popular among my friends, although those with simpler palates may prefer a more basic version.

Bacon Supreme takes about half an hour to cook, and between the homey smells of brewing coffee, fried potatoes, and bacon, usually all the sleepy heads straggle downstairs to see what’s what for breakfast. By this time, the French toast and bacon are keeping warm in the oven, the hash browns are getting a nice crisp edge over a low flame on the stove, and the frittata has set at a comfortable temperature on the counter. There is plenty of food, and I am secure in the knowledge that dinner will be covered because I have already stashed some pizzas in the freezer. My work for the day is done.

I can now relax and nestle into a nice spot on the couch. The fire dances before me. I have all that I need: a book, the crossword puzzle, and a hot mug of coffee. I am surrounded by the happy sounds of people I care about. I am free to do anything or nothing at all. The day expands magically in front of me, like a snow day.

Winter Weekend Recipes

Fancy French Toast

8 pieces of thick-sliced bread

4 large eggs

3/4 cup whole milk or half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 tablespoons butter

Maple syrup, for serving

• Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and position the rack in the center of the oven.

• In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, espresso powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour in the eggs and whisk until well combined, then add the milk, vanilla, and salt.

• Place the mixture into a pie pan or baking dish. Slowly dredge each slice of bread in the egg mixture, letting it soak for about a minute on each side.

• Melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Gently place the bread slices in the skillet, cooking for about 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and slightly puffy.

• Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining bread slices. Serves four.

Bacon Supreme

8 slices thick-cut bacon

½ cup dark brown sugar

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ ground cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position a rack in the top third of the oven. Place a wire rack on a baking pan lined with aluminum foil and set aside.

• In a plastic bag, combine the sugar and cayenne, black and red pepper flakes. Coat each bacon strip with the mixture by placing it in the bag and shaking it around. Place each strip on the wire rack, pressing in extra sugar and pepper mixture.

• Bake for a total of 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through to ensure even cooking. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Can be easily doubled, made in batches, and kept warm in the oven. Serves 4 polite eaters or 2 bacon lovers.

Kate Gordon’s private collection of dulcimers made by (l-r) George Haggerdy, Lynn McSpadden/McSpadden, Dwain Wilder/Bear Meadow, and FolkCraft/Folkroots.

The Instrument with Pennsylvanian Roots Mountain Dulcimers

Like many people, I spent most of my life totally oblivious to the existence of the Appalachian mountain dulcimer. That changed in 1999 when my husband and I visited his sister and her family in Kansas for Christmas. They had just moved to the same small town where my aunt and uncle and their eldest son and his family were living. Naturally, this called for a multi-family celebration.

While we were there, my sister-in-law proudly showed us the mountain dulcimer her fiddle teacher had just built for her. I was charmed by the gentle voice of the instrument but didn’t think much more about it.

When we got home, my husband decided he wanted to take up the harmonica. Since we had met in an Early Music group when we were both living in Chicago, I thought I should brush off my old guitar skills so we could continue to make music together. We headed out to our local music store, the old Lou’s Music in Newton, NJ.

Buying a harmonica was easy, but finding a guitar proved challenging. All of Lou’s guitars seemed to be intended for budding rock stars, and I was a 60s-era folkie. None of his guitars sang to me, but there in the window was a little mountain dulcimer, similar to the one I’d just seen in Kansas. I bought it.

Searching the web for resources to help me learn how to play my new instrument, I found my way to a mountain dulcimer chat group (remember chat groups?). The group included members of the Pocono Dulcimer Club, which met monthly in Stroudsburg, PA, and they welcomed me warmly. Off I trotted and was soon immersed in the wonderful world of dulcimer music, dulcimer people, and a growing collection of mountain dulcimers.

So, what is an Appalachian mountain dulcimer?

The mountain dulcimer is one of the few folk instruments that belongs entirely to the United States. Native Americans have had flutes, drums, and other instruments from time immemorial. But, to the best of my knowledge, only two folk instruments have been invented in this country by people who came here from the Old World.

The first is the banjo, which is well-known. It was created by African-Americans based on African

gourd-bodied stringed instruments in the lute family and is now a staple of many musical genres, including old-time, bluegrass, roots, and country. But there is another one, virtually unknown until the mid-20th century: the Appalachian mountain dulcimer, which had its roots here in Pennsylvania.

The ancestor of the mountain dulcimer appears to have been a little German folk instrument called the scheitholt, brought to this country by settlers who came to Pennsylvania in the 1700s. The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA, has several in its collection—all simple boxes with three to five strings. One string has wire staples under it to serve as frets to play the melody notes, while the others act as drones to provide simple harmony. Some of them were plucked, while others appear to have been played with a bow, like a fiddle.

The scheitholt is a member of the zither family, which includes all instruments with strings stretched over a box that serves as the resonator, but without a neck like a guitar or fiddle. That family also includes the larger and better-known hammered dulcimer; an ancient instrument that is found in various forms throughout the Old World and is probably the dulcimer referred to in the Bible.

The scheitholt traveled with German settlers as they moved west and south into the Appalachian Mountains. It was simple to make and easy to play, and so it found a place in the homes of people who lived in remote areas and did not have the resources to build or purchase a fiddle or other professionally crafted instruments.

Although the scheitholt was brought to America by German settlers, it was their Scots-Irish neighbors in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and northeastern Virginia who made it their own, creating what we now call the Appalachian mountain dulcimer. They gave it a score of local and regional names, including dulcimore, Kentucky dulcimer, fretted dulcimer, lap dulcimer, and—my favorite—hog fiddle. The instrument’s combination of a single fretted melody string and harmony strings that droned in the background was a good fit for people used to the sound of the bagpipe.

21 History By
Continued on next page Plectrum zither or scheitholt by an unknown Pennsylvania maker, 1840–1870. From the Collection of the Mercer Museum Library of the Bucks County Historical Society

By the mid-1800s, the dulcimer had acquired the form we know today: a narrow fretboard mounted on a larger soundbox. Two of the best-known builders of early dulcimers in the late 19th century were C.P. Pritchard of West Virginia, who built what he called “American dulcimers” and sold them by mail order, and J. Edward Thomas of Kentucky, who was building and selling dulcimers between 1871 and 1930. Both men built dulcimers with hourglass-shaped soundboxes that reflected the builders’ professional status, since the hourglass is harder to build than the older, simple rectangular soundbox. Hourglass is still the most common shape, although individual makers experiment with different forms.

Thomas was connected with the Hindman Settlement School in eastern Kentucky. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, settlement schools in the Appalachian Mountains and the popular Arts and Crafts movement encouraged the preservation and dissemination of traditional arts and crafts, including folk music and traditional instruments.

The dulcimer was seen as an icon of regional Appalachian music and culture, particularly when paired romantically with old English ballads that had been handed down through the generations by mountain singers. A quiet instrument, the dulcimer was most often used in private homes to accompany singers. In addition to traditional songs and ballads, it was used to play hymns, gospel tunes, and the sentimental songs popular during that period.

The Mercer Museum has one of these early dulcimers, built by J. Edward Thomas. It was used by singer Loraine Wyman when she performed traditional songs and ballads she collected in Kentucky in the years around World War I.

Top: Appalachian mountain dulcimer made by J.E. Thomas between 1915 and 1920. From the Collection of the Mercer Museum Library of the Bucks County Historical Society. Left: Kate Gordon strums her custom-built dulcimer.

But it was Kentucky-born folk singer Jean Ritchie who really brought the mountain dulcimer out of the hills. She was active in the New York folk revival scene in Greenwich Village in the 1950s and ’60s, and she performed and recorded extensively. In 1963, she published the first dulcimer instruction book. She also sold dulcimers. At first, she acted as an agent for dulcimers built by her uncle, Jethro Ambergy, who, like J.E. Thomas, was affiliated with the Hindman Settlement School. Later, she and her photographer husband, George Pickow, began to make and sell their own mountain dulcimers.

From Jean Ritchie, the mountain dulcimer spread to other musicians who experimented with its sound and began to expand its repertoire. Richard Fariña and his wife Mimi (Joan Baez’s sister), Cindi Lauper, and Joni Mitchell all used dulcimers in their performances and recordings. The folk-rock groups Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention experimented with the instrument, as did Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones (on the Ed Sullivan show, no less). Even Dolly Parton has been known to play the mountain dulcimer on occasion.

Despite the growing awareness of the mountain dulcimer, it remained a niche instrument for much of the 20th century, too quiet to compete with more popular fiddles and guitars, and not generally found in local music stores. After all, the rock-and-roll generation liked their music loud.

But momentum was building, and with a growing market came a growing number of dulcimer festivals and clubs all over the country. Individual luthiers found a steady demand for their hand-crafted instruments, and companies like Blue Lion, Folk Craft, and McSpadden began to produce instruments on a larger scale. In 1975, dulcimer players even got their own magazine, the Dulcimer Player News, which is still in publication and serves both mountain and hammered dulcimer players (thus achieving strength in numbers).

Today, the mountain dulcimer is increasingly popular. Where once players mostly concentrated on folk and gospel songs and lively fiddle tunes, current artists are pushing the instrument’s boundaries into virtually every genre of music: classical, jazz, American Songbook, Irish, world music, original songs and tunes, even rock and roll. One player, Bing Futch, even took first prize in a Blues guitar contest a few years ago, playing the mountain dulcimer.

But despite the myriad ways the dulcimer can be played, it is still a simple instrument at heart, accessible and easy to learn. The fretboard has a basic diatonic (do, re, mi) scale, which makes it easy for beginners to pick out tunes by ear. Ten minutes of instruction will have you playing Mozart—okay, “Twinkle, twinkle little star” but still… As old-timers say about the dulcimer: “It ain’t got no notes, you just play it.”

Pocono Dulcimer Club meets monthly at Christ Hamilton United Lutheran Church just outside of Stroudsburg, PA. The club welcomes beginners and provides instruction at every meeting.

The Club will be sponsoring its 20th annual dulcimer festival on April 26th–27th, 2024, at the First Methodist Church in East Stroudsburg. The festival will have classes for players of all levels, including a discovery track for people interested in trying out the dulcimer for the first time. They can either bring the dulcimer that has been hanging on a wall or hiding in a closet, or rent one at the festival for a nominal fee.

The festival will culminate on the evening of Saturday, April 27th, with a concert that is open to everyone. The concert will feature performances by mountain dulcimer virtuoso, Rob Brereton, as well as the Dulcimer Boys.

Ted Yoder, Cliff Cole, and Norm Williams will be playing a lively mix of folk music inspired by Celtic and Old Time traditions on both the mountain and hammered dulcimers and a host of other instruments. Tickets are included with festival registration or are available for purchase at the door.

Photo courtesy of the Pocono Dulcimer Club Locally, the Pocono Dulcimer Club (www.pocono
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Photos by Robyn Oakes Quilting a Kimono: It all started with an idea! I hung up the kimonos in view so I could get to know them better.

Stitching Together Tradition and Art

As an artist, I’ve always liked experimenting with different mediums and subjects. The push and pull between realism and abstraction fascinates me. With a focus on visual storytelling, light and composition are key elements in the figures that I paint on white cotton and then stitch to define certain areas of the composition.

My desire to paint in this unconventional manner draws from my love of fiber art and the need to push boundaries. It challenges traditional notions of what constitutes fine art.

Historically, fiber art has been separated from fine art because of its utilitarian nature. Quilting, basketry, or weaving have mostly been considered traditional “women’s work,” compared to fine art, which has always focused on paintings, sculptures, or conceptual art. Today, there is discussion in the art world about whether fiber art is fine art. This is forefront in my mind when I work on a new painting.

In the fall of 2023, fellow artist Mary Ardan and I addressed the contemporary debate of fiber art vs. fine art in our installation, Women’s Work, It’s Always Been Art, which showcased at the Wayne County Arts Alliance gallery in Honesdale, PA.

For this “Decoration” exhibition, we patterned a dress of pink fabric squares. Before assembling the dress, we wrote names and information about some of our most beloved fiber artists on each square.

We then hand-stitched the dress together. To make our artistic statement, we suspended the pink dress from the ceiling inside of a circular shroud of black tulle, interfering with the viewer’s appreciation. This was our nod to the preconception that fiber art has not been considered fine art.

A few months ago, I was having lunch with a friend and discussing my quilting/artistic background when the discussion turned to making an artistic keepsake out of some of her late husband’s clothing. He had lived in Japan for some time and had a beautiful collection of kimonos; and so the process of turning six kimonos into a patchwork of kimonos and then into an artistic, largerthan-life, kimono wall-hanging for her studio began.

Before beginning the piece, I researched the historical aspect of the garment and its function in Japanese culture. The kimono, or gofuko, was created between 794 and 1185. At the time, it was worn by commoners and as an undergarment by aristocrats.

Continued on next page

27 Life By
Robyn Oakes
It’s easier to place material on paper first. It creates a visual cue for me. Usually I’m a coffee drinker, but I drank tea while I worked on the kimono to connect my moments of Asian customs.
28 Life Continued
The kimono needed to be moved to the floor because of its size. Here, the cut pieces lay on top of the paper pattern. Making the pattern. Cutting the fabric. I have finishing to do. Hem, sash, and starch.

Today, kimonos are worn at various festivals and tea ceremonies in Japan. I appreciated the array of robes that I had to work with and their journey to America.

I found that not every kimono from my friend’s collection was made the same way, but by paying attention to the overall aesthetic composition, I created a pattern that would preserve the integrity of the construction of the garments. The intricate designs on the kimonos incorporated symbolism, nature motifs, and other artistic elements, such as bamboo leaves, the iconic Japanese wave, and geometric shapes. Most of the kimonos carried blue and gray themes. I planned my design considering the overall size of each artistic element.

Wabi-sabi, a Japanese design aesthetic, loosely means finding beauty in imperfection. Admired are those who live their life from this philosophy with its appreciation of simplicity and “less is more.” Reflecting this aesthetic, the

style I fashioned was very simple in design, front and back.

I wanted the viewer to accept the large art piece as a kimono but also pay homage to the person who wore them. Some of the fabrics of the garments were faded and stained in places, which made me feel closer to their owner as I fussy cut the pattern pieces around those areas, honoring his personal narrative. I used a belt or “obi” from one of the kimonos to adorn the front of the wall hanging. I also starched the pieced kimono so that it would hold its shape. It is hanging on a bamboo pole that was cut from my friend’s garden.

For me, the joy of creating fiber art lies in the transformative journey—from conception to the final artwork. It’s a form of artistic expression that engages both my hands and imagination. I love the tactile connection with the materials and the emotional connection made through the process of construction. For me, this is fine art.

Finished art piece

Cold Season Ramblings Glorious Winter Days

It is a dark dreary day as I look out my home office window on this first Saturday afternoon in February. The sun never really came up today. I could not even see the clouds. It was just a monotonous, light-gray sky, the type of sky that exists when snow is in the air but has not yet arrived, a snow sky.

Do the birds know that the snow is coming? Do they gather more seed anticipating that their stores may be sparse for a while after the snow? The activity at my seven feeders is intense this morning. In my backyard, which abuts preserved woodlands, there is much competition at the black oil sunflower seed feeders.

The itinerant chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice fly in, grab a seed from the feeder, and depart to a nearby tree where they crack open and devour the seed, and then repeat. In contrast, the house finches remain on the feeders for several minutes while consuming their snack, as do their cousin goldfinches who do not visit quite as often.

Today’s treat for me is a pair of cardinals whose colors shine brightly against the muted background of beige and brown pastels. The color of the female cardinal is as glorious as the male’s. Why do we say she is drab? She is magnificent. Admire her own blended shades against the snow next time you see one.

Invariably, some seed drops to the ground where armies of juncos and white-throated sparrows gather them up. Today, they are joined on the ground by much larger but gentle mourning doves. The suet feeder activity is highlighted by a woodpecker party; a red-bellied woodpecker, a hairy woodpecker, and the smaller downy woodpecker are all feeding at the same time.

Suddenly, all the birds disperse in unison. Based on my previous observations, I look out the window to see if there is an incoming blue jay or hawk. Blue jays are bully birds and will do no harm except scare away other feeding birds so they can eat their fill. The Cooper’s hawk

Continued on next page


and sharp-shinned hawk, however, come to the feeding stations not to eat seed, but rather to pick off and eat an unwary smaller bird. Today, it is just a solitary blue jay.

It is snowing now. Finally.

Last year, we did not have any measurable snow. Sure, we had flurries and some trace amounts that created dustings, but there were no significant accumulations in northern New Jersey where I live. Data shows that temperatures here and in most parts of the world are increasing.

You might think that warming temperatures would translate to less snow; however, scientists tell us that the opposite is true. Warm air holds more moisture than cold air as demonstrated by hot humid days in the summer. Cold air holds less moisture as indicated by your skin drying out in the cold winter. Therefore, if year-round temperatures are warmer, the air should hold more moisture, so that when it does get colder, moisture in the air will condense and cause more precipitation, including more snow in winter. But you might wonder why last year, which had the warmest temperatures on record, had such little snow.

That is the beauty of nature. It does not always follow human models or predictions. Nature always wins, and one season is not a measure of long-term averages. It takes many years of seasonal weather patterns to develop a consensus on climate.

One of my favorite times of the winter is the day after a big snowstorm. The sun is bright in the clear sky. The wind has sub sided. I breathe the cold air and feel an inflating tension in my chest. I feel positive. I feel energized. I am invigorated. I am alive.

Andover, NJ. A key element of the experience is the diversity of terrain: open meadows, old farmland, both flat and hilly woodlands, streams, a lake, and a mountain, not to mention the adjacent rural Aeroflex-Andover Airport.

Since the absence of snow last year prevented any local skiing opportunities, I was thrilled when we had this season’s first snowfall last month. Without hesitation, I welcomed another opportunity to ski and was thankful that I was healthy and retired and could act spontaneously without the restrictions of a predetermined schedule.

After backing my car into a parking area on the dirt gravel lot, I dig into my canvas bag of cold weather clothing, deciding what to wear. I am a firm believer in the old adage attributed to British author Alfred Wainwright that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Hence, my canvas bag of assorted articles.

I left home wearing a long-sleeve, wool undershirt beneath a mock turtleneck and a wool ragg sweater on top and wool long johns and corduroys below, together with wool socks. Since the sun was out and there was no wind, I figured that if I added a wool hat and neck gaiter with a light windbreaker and ski gloves, it should keep me warm enough while skiing.

It was a glorious day. The sky was clear blue, and the sun was brilliant. The air was still and so crisp that my lungs felt a chill when I inhaled, and I could see my breath on exhale. I put on my skis and poles and rambled several yards to the open area where I planned to ski.

When there is enough snow on the ground, I especially enjoy cross-country skiing at Kittatinny State Park in

The pasture was surrounded by woodlands and measured several acres at the base of a mountain. The blanket of fresh snow was nearly a foot deep and had not yet been disturbed by humans. There were no footprints, at least not the human kind. This is a mixed blessing but one

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that I am glad for. I like to be alone when I ski in order to enjoy the quiet solitude. The downside is the considerable physical effort to make new tracks in deep snow. It is an exhilarating workout.

I glide one ski and the opposite arm forward as I admire the white surroundings and darker deciduous tree skeletons that rise above. The baskets on my poles sink deep and require effort to retrieve as the other ski and opposite arm take turns repeating the motion over and over. It is hard work creating the new trail in a foot of snow. I perspire. I breathe fresh air. I am happy. Finally, I have created a circuitous trail around the perimeter of the field almost a mile in circumference.

Now it is pure joy, gliding over the tracks that did not exist fifteen minutes earlier.

My body is loose.

My head is as clear as the sky. There are no clouds.

There is no interference.

How far will I go? How far can I go?

Two laps, three laps, four laps?

Why am I even boggling my mind with these thoughts? Just go.

When I get tired, stop.

Well, I am tired, but I don’t want to stop. Don’t push it.

Don’t fall and hurt myself.

Negative thoughts. Go away. Just enjoy the moment.

Thank you snow.

Thank you sun.

I can do this again tomorrow. Unless the snow melts. But it will snow again.

Bob Chernow is a geologist who recently retired from teaching and enjoys gardening and spending time outdoors in Swartswood Lake, NJ.

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Aries (March 20-April 19) – You may passively observe the changes to your social environment, and you can also step into the scene and investigate directly. If you recognize that you are the catalyst and the activating force, you will have a much clearer perspective. The changes to you are being driven by your personal awakening. No matter how fast you or “things” may seem to be moving, take it slow, and keep your senses open. They will tell you more than your mind.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) – With the Sun and Pluto now working together at the top of your chart, you may have the idea that anything is possible. In pure theory, that is true. Start with observing the situations and people around you — particularly the ones you disagree with. If you’re in any form of leadership, you want advisors around you who disagree: genuine differences in perspective that you then take under advisement. Ultimately, your goal is to make your decisions consciously.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) – What do you see when you look out your window? And along similar lines, what is the framework of your beliefs? You have a certain view when you look out the window of your mind, that is largely determined by what you hold to be true. Often, that’s based on a collection of past notions that have little value today. Pluto in Aquarius is here to help you expand your horizons. The time has come to adapt your ideas about life to what is actually happening in the world.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) – While you tend to be someone willing and capable of thinking for many people, now is the time to remember that your life is about you. Your goals must align with the things you want to do, and your motives must align with what actually motivates you. Allow your curiosity about yourself and about life to lead you. Write it on your mirror: Curious = Awake.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) – Pluto in your opposite sign Aquarius is inviting you to explore the world with a new sense of adventure. Emphasize the people and situations that you find interesting, or that challenge you. Get to know people, and don’t be quick to judge them. Let yourself be drawn in the direction of what is unusual, strange, unpopular, and maybe even repelling. Allow the world to develop in new ways, humming a little tune of, “Things aren’t quite what they seem.”

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) – Many things are shifting and changing in your world and in the world, calling for a total reevaluation of matters you thought were long settled. Saturn in your opposite sign Pisces is providing you with a kind of corrective lens, correcting in the direction of what is realistic and necessary. It’s also helping you filter out people and things that are based in mere fantasy. Pragmatism is no way to run a creative life, but we all need a little, and you now have some available just when you need it the most.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) – With Pluto now in Aquarius, you are set to express maximum, concentrated heat, and to take the kinds of creative risks that change you, and might change the world. This calls for some guts. You may feel way out of character sustaining this kind of energy for any length of time — but you can do it. It’s not that you want to. It’s time. Way past time. You might say that the only true freedoms are the ability to love who you want to, and to be creatively daring.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) – The time has arrived for you to either take charge of a family or household situation, or separate yourself from it. You’re being called to summon a level of internal emotional mastery. Such will feed your sense of belonging on the planet no matter what others may think. The essence of Pluto in Aquarius is moving beyond the fear of others’ opinions. It’s at the heart of the matter of your emotional independence, which translates to your personal liberty.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) You are in an extremely rare moment where a tangible, focused breakthrough is not only possible but verges on inevitable. This seems to be an invention, reinvention, major development, or shift in the direction of your life’s work. All you need to do is keep going, and be open to new ideas when they arrive. Do not concern yourself with the end results, just keep doing what is interesting and provides you with a focus of activity: a purpose, in the moment, somewhat related to what you were doing yesterday.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) – The thing often lacking from the whole idea of Capricorn is doing things for the pleasure of the experience. To do that, you would need to make a conscious effort to get yourself to a place you want to be. That might be your studio, Easter island, or working in your garden for several days running. You might want to find the nearest pinball machine, or your favorite poet, and indulge yourself for a while — just to remind yourself what it feels like to do something for no special purpose.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) – Pluto arrived in your sign two weeks ago, and is about to take a conjunction from Mars. Pluto often works on a deep level, poised for an aspect from a nearby inner planet. Mars calls for action. You are motivated to move mountains when you experience actual focused desire. There will be two parts to this: Mars enters your sign first, followed by Venus. Mars is concerned with fast action, and Venus with correct action. Remember.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) – As Mars joins Pluto in the most sensitive area of your chart mid-month, it will help if you manage your anxiety carefully. You have more important things to do than fret or worry. One of them is to work with those you know are your friends toward the improvement of your life circumstances — whatever the field of life may be. Ultimately, you possess responsibility for your choices. Each one is part of your maturing process; each demonstrates your commitment to yourself and to who you are.

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Signs Planet Waves by Eric Francis



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