Ahhhh ... the New Year. It's a shiny clean, minty-fresh, brand new beginning, wide open with hope and promise. A blank slate as clear as a field of just-fallen snow.

But as we eagerly make our first tracks across the virgin expanse of 2006, who among us doesn't at times look out into the months stretching long and far ahead of us and see a great, yawning unknown? Who doesn't peer into the gaping future and find excitement and anticipation tinged with fear and anxiety about the fate that lies in wait?

With human existence so uncertain and unpredictable, how can we possibly keep resolutions about what we're going to do with the year when all we really want to know is, what is the year going to do to us?

Why can't we just know?

Well, according to those in the know, knowing can be just a matter of knowing where to find the data. It can be hidden in the alignment of the planets, buried in our birth date, zapping around in the psychic energy we emit, cloaking us in the distinct color of our personal auras. We may be, literally, carrying it in the palm of our hand.

But interpreting all this supernatural chatter requires professional help, and it was the quest for this information that led me to seek some psychic guidance.

I soon learned that I was hardly alone in my journey. As I worked my way down a who's who list of New York astrologers, palm readers, mediums, clairvoyants, numerologists and psychics, I discovered that booking an appointment with one of Manhattan's leading paranormal practitioners is only slightly less difficult then trying to score some time with a top hairdresser or plastic surgeon.

They are booked weeks — if not months — in advance. They don't do walk-ins. They get hefty fees, with many commanding well over $150 for a session or reading.

Most were not only too busy with celebrity and/or regular clientele to see me before the deadline for this article, they were busy enough, and take their business seriously enough, that they wouldn't waive their fee — or risk being the subject of a skeptical or comical hatchet job — in exchange for some press coverage.

Venturing beyond Manhattan's elite psychic network is no help. A psychic running what appears to be a storefront operation next to a diner in New Jersey told me she couldn't squeeze me in for a month, explaining that the New Year — obviously — is a busy time in the fortune-telling industry.

Eventually, however, I was able to book a reading with a psychic named Fahrusha, who has appeared on the "Late Show with David Letterman" and "The View" and counts some high-profile Manhattanites among her clients — including, she says, a fellow FOX employee (though she won't name names).

Click here to read about my visit to Fahrusha, who guesses my husband's name.

I was also able to make an appointment with Stephen C. Robinson, founder and executive director of the Holistic Studies Institute, a school that trains and certifies psychics.

Click here to read about my visit to Stephen C. Robinson, who opens the door ahead of my knock.

Both appeared to have about as impeccable credentials as one can hope for in this field of expertise. Fahrusha has been named one of the 20 best psychics in Woman's Own magazine and one of New York's Psychic Superstars in New York magazine. She writes a column on handwriting analysis for Tiger Beat magazine and has been featured in three different books and guides on New York's psychic community.

Robinson holds a mesmerizing list of fascinating titles and credentials: Nationalist Spiritualist Teacher's Degree, Certified Psychic-Medium of the National Spiritualist Association, Board Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, member of the American Counseling Association.

Graduates of his school's psychic development program are eligible to become Certified Intuitive Consultants, certified by the American Board of Holistic Practitioners, of which he is president.

The empire Robinson oversees also includes weekly, open-to-the-public, no-appointment necessary seances.

In addition to their sterling resumes, both Fahrusha and Robinson claim decades of practice and experience. If they couldn't help me grab a glimpse of the future, I figured, no one could.

Surveying the Psychic Terrain

If you don't have a certain level of belief in, or at least a fairly open mind about, paranormal phenomena, there's not much point to pursuing psychic counsel.

As amazed and impressed as I was with my sessions with both Fahrusha and Robinson, I was also aware of the information and clues about myself I was transmitting, and of the general nature of much of what they say.

Within a few days of each reading, I've managed to make most of their predictions and pronouncements, particularly Robinson's, fit my life, even those that seemed not to fit at the time.

On the other hand, my natural inclination to believe in this sort of thing is tempered by the fact that neither seemed to pick up on the fact that I have a daughter or mentioned anything about seeing a little girl in my life. If you are a true skeptic, a session won't convince you.

Additionally, there's no question that the field is rife with charlatans, fakes and performers. But while there's no concrete way to verify or assure that your psychic's gifts are "real," this is a world that operates on reputation, referrals and peer-to-peer endorsement. No one hates a fake psychic more than an authentic one does — they take their profession seriously and seem to do a good job of keeping the con artists far from their circle.

They also appear to adhere to a code of ethics regarding client privacy and the sharing of bad news. Client identities are never divulged and, I am assured, sessions are completely confidential. A psychic who sees something truly horrible like a car crash or serious illness in your future probably won't tell you that, but instead will advise you to be careful driving or to pay attention to your health.

My sessions with Fahrusha and Robinson were not my first foray into the realm of psychics and astrologers, and as I got deeper into this latest adventure, I was struck by how one's fears evolve with age. At 22, you worry that your life will never have any order or stability and that you'll never achieve your dreams and goals. At 38, you worry that your life is too established and predictable — and that you'll never meet your dreams and goals.

As I left Robinson's building, I was reminded of a long ago afternoon when a friend and I, desperate for some relief from our 20-something angst, visited a "psychic astrologer" in his basement apartment.

Though much of what I recall the astrologer predicting has turned out to be more or less accurate, the most prophetic person I encountered that day was the proprietor of a body piercing shop next to the astrologer's office who refused my demands that he pierce my nose.

"You're not going to be living out on the fringes of society forever, honey, even though you can't see it now," he cooed, cupping my face in his hands. "You're going to have to get a job and be around real people one day. You're going to have a life where you will regret putting a hole in the middle of your face."

Talk about being psychic.