The Unspoken Secrets of Trash

Trash and litter will tell us a lot, if we take time to consider their presence. Yesterday, on returning from a walk around the block, I found four pieces of trash at the edge of our lawn. Curiously, all four pieces were white – a piece of paper towel, a thin sheet of plastic packaging foam, a plastic snack pack with a picture of a goofy snowman and a dryer sheet. White trash!

The term “white trash” is a derogatory term that refers to the wretched and landless poor white people who have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement to today’s hillbillies. This white trash in our yard, however, was something different.

I have been teaching third grade students about single-use plastic, which is plastic unfit for the recycle bin that ends up in a landfill. Single-use plastics include styrofoam packaging materials, potato chip bags, plastic netting (used to bag ham, fruits and vegetables), snack packaging, candy wrappers and the list goes on. When people start to notice all the single-use plastic being tossed into the waste basket, it can be surprising just how much there is.

I got to wondering about the dryer sheet? How bad could a dryer sheet be to the environment. I looked for an ingredients list on the Bounce box sitting above our clothes dryer. No ingredients were listed, so I did some online research. The ingredients were missing from the manufacturer’s website. Then I found myself on Dr. Axe’s website where I read, “the current United States Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require dryer sheet manufacturers to list actual ingredients, including the chemicals used in fragrance blends.”

Further down the web page I read, ” In one of the most interesting studies to date, pioneering fragrance researchers Anne Steinemann, PhD, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, looked at the chemicals spewing out of dryer vents… Seven hazardous air pollutants and 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Some of these, including acetaldehyde and benzene, are not safe at any level. (These are also pollutants that commonly spew out of vehicle tailpipes.)”

Steinemann comments, “These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health. The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain and into water bodies.” Time to stop wasting good money buying dryer sheets. They’re trash.

Yes, trash and litter will tell us a lot, if we take time to consider their presence.

Read my recent article about Clean Ocean Access and how the organization is working on getting plastic waste off our beaches and out of our waterways.

New Revelations

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 – Revelations 3:23? I bought a copy of the Steve Jobs biography and turned to page 323. There was nothing of interest there. Then I turned to Chapter 3 and counted 23 paragraphs in, where I found an intriguing story. It told of Job’s strange relationship with the manipulative spiritual leader Robert Friedland. Apparently, Friedland ran a commune called All One Farm. It was an experiment in socialism. Socialism is a system of ownership where all the members of the community share in the work and the final product.

Jobs would spend weekends at the farm, seeking enlightenment and pruning the Gravenstein apple trees. According to the book, “’Steve ran the apple orchard,’ said Friedland. ‘We were in the organic cider business. Steve’s job was to lead a crew of freaks to prune the orchard and whip it back into shape.’”

The commune was supposed to be a refuge from materialism. Materialism is the belief that comfort, pleasure, and wealth were of highest importance. Friedland’s cult followers were told to chop and sell firewood, and to make apple presses and wood stoves, for which they were not paid. Jobs and the other workers soon became disenchanted; they missed their comforts and having independence and control over their own lives. One by one they left the apple farm.

Experiments in socialism throughout history have always failed, largely due to the leadership of self-serving men who did not respond to individual needs and did not reward the individuals adequately to succeed as a whole. Having learned valuable lessons about managing and motivating people, he was inspired to create a new model of social enterprise. His management philosophy led to the innovative culture and broad market reach that came to define Apple Computer.

The Wall Street Journal article ended with this conclusion about Jobs: “We will not soon see his like again. Let us hope that when we do, it is soon enough to help us deal with the troubles that this century, and every century, will bring.”

Apple’s advances in technology now connect individuals around the world more readily with one another. Apple ipads and iphones give their owners access the internet and its vast amounts of information, multiple messenging options, numerous social media sites and millions of products. The internet is a veritable “Tree of Knowledge,” and the beguiling serpent of temptation is the biology of addiction, arising from the overuse of such portable devices. As with alcohol, drug and gambling, such addiction this brings a lack of discernment, senseless spending and a disconnect with reality. Children and teens are especially susceptible, and research is showing that these devices interfere with healthy brain, social, emotional, spiritual and physical development.

Living in an overly busy, noisy world of information-overload, how can people possibly listen to their own intuition, recognize the wisdom of others and think for themselves? This will require individuals to make a conscious effort to step back from technology and seek moments of inactivity and silence, in order to be able to reflect on who they really are, reclaim their independence and regain control over their lives. There is a healthier balance to be found between people’s technological, material and spiritual lives. Furthermore, everyone holds the potential to connect with the spiritual forces waiting to provide the guidance that can empower humanity collectively. Indeed, humanity has the potential to reshape the world into one that benefits all beings. Moving through the Information Age, perhaps the next step in human evolution is awakening to such a reality.

One common theme among my Storywalker stories for children and parents is the idea of slowing down and finding time to rest in silence, so as to be able to hear both the inner and outer voices of Spirit and to reflect on what is heard.

Look Up

Thursday, October 30, 2011 – I presented my first audio project, Fiddlesticks: Nature and Nonsense, to my Business Master Mind group for peer feedback. Scripted in the format of a children’s radio hour, the CD presents three short meditative stories I had written about walking and nature. I recorded my telling of the stories in collaboration with voice coach and audio producer, Donna Mac, and local musician and performing artist, Cathy Clasper-Torch.

Parents can play the CD for their children on a car system or on a computer. They can play a story before nap time or bed time to help children wind down. They can play a story while driving somewhere special to go for a walk or before meal time to spark some table discussion.

The peer feedback from my group turned out to be unsettling. One mom said she would not purchase it, because the stories alluded to God, which was counter to her beliefs. This gave me pause.

The context in which I mention God is more spiritual than religious. Most people I know embrace a faith tradition of one kind or another as a connection to Spirit. I myself am open to different expressions of Spirit, even as I continue to examine the faith in which I was raised – Christianity. I have been most strongly influenced by a spiritual movement called Unity. As I explore divine direction in my life, I embrace the full variety of forms in which guidance may come, including chance encounters with new people and ideas or even a message that might arrive through some creative aspect or example of Nature. This guidance has led me to work with children, and the stories I record are intended to prompt thinking about Nature, as well as about individual and collective spirituality.

The other mom in the group expressed her doubts about a particular graphic inside the jacket cover that disturbed her – a photo of a cigarette package. The brand name on the sky blue package was NATURAL AMERICAN SPIRIT. Beneath the name was the graphic of a Native American smoking a peace pipe with a feather dangling off the end of the pipe. Soaring up above the name was a stylized Thunderbird eagle, symbolizing Spirit. The side panel, with the Surgeon General’s Warning, was clearly shown. I had included the packaging graphic intentionally, because it was an important element in the third and final story, Look Up, which is about Spirit. The soft tones of Cathy’s wind instrument float around my words, imitating the wistful music of a Native American flute.

On leaving the Master Mind meeting, disturbed by the critique, I settled into my car, turned on the radio and listened as a random song began to play on FM 101.5. It was “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum. Holy smoke! I laughed and my tension dissipated.

Upon arriving home, I got online to look up “peace pipe,” and clicked on the Wikipedia definition. The word calumet appeared on my screen. I read “Calumet is a Norman word.” Like Norman Greenbaum? I read that calumet is related to the French word chalumeau, which means reed. Calumet originally meant “sort of reeds used to make pipes.” The word calumet was used by Norman-French settlers in Canada to describe the ceremonial pipes used among The First Nations people of the region.

Across the land, each region’s people select local plants with special qualities, symbolic meaning and aroma, for use in sacred ceremonies. Using herbal tobacco or a mixture of herbs, natives smoked dried plant matter in pipes to seal an agreement or treaty or to send a prayer skyward to the attention of the Creator and other spirits. I pondered the words green balm as a homonym for Greenbaum. A balm is a pleasing smell with a soothing, healing, comforting quality.

The ceremonial calumet is still used today. The bowls of the pipe were formed from river clay and hardened in a hot fire, before adding stems made from the hollow canes formed by reeds. In my story. Look Up, I actually speak of reeds:


Look up. Read more

A Spirited Game

Wednesday, October 5, 2011 – How many people are aware of the subtle messages constantly being transferred from a spiritual realm into material reality, and how many such people consciously seek these messages for inspiration or guidance?

In the early afternoon I had a brief appointment with my friend Stan, who owns a promotional products business. I wanted to look at samples of small personalized pencils that children can keep in their pocket. Upon finishing my meeting, Stan commented how he had been having trouble sleeping and was waking at 2:00 every morning, with lots of ideas in his head. I acknowledged that this happens to me, too.

This is a widely-experienced phenomenon that happens in the liminal space that separates the end of the night and the beginning of a new day, sometime between 2am and 4am. A friend of mine once referred to this time as the Hour of the Angels. Could it be that this time of peace and quiet is the best time for the spiritual realm to download the answers to the perplexing questions that are in people’s heads as they settle into bed for the night?

Driving out of Stan’s parking lot, I turned on the radio and heard the words “you can’t sleep,” from Robert Palmer’s song Addicted to Love.

When songs on the radio align with my thoughts or experiences, I wonder if some musical angel has just whispered into the subconscious mind of the DJ. Recognizing and acting upon communications from angels through such cryptic means has become a game for me. This game was inspired by two characters, Sophie Neveu and Robert Langdon, in Dan Brown’s spiritual detective novel The Da Vinci Code. I associated with Sophie’s archetype as a cryptographer. Her parents were killed in a car accident when she was very young, and she was raised by her grandfather, an art curator. Her grandfather trained her to solve complicated word puzzles, and, before he was murdered, he had created a trail of clues, for Sophie to find and decipher. The story is a fine arts treasure hunt, in which Sophie and Robert must reveal the hidden meaning behind one masterpiece after another, in order to navigate to the final conclusion – a revelation about the Divine Feminine that could shatter history. My version of the treasure hunt game is a bit more whimsical and lighthearted. I play it with angels, and my husband dubbed it Story Walking.

Upon arriving home from Stan’s, I composed a playful query in rhyme and emailed it to my friend Anne, a collector of illuminated manuscripts who channels angel messages back and forth… between here and there.

I wondered if this would elicit a response. It did… Read more.

A Writer’s Fairy Tale

After spending an hour picking and cleaning dandelion greens to make a salad, I went out for a walk. At the corner of Middle Road and Balsam Drive, I saw a shiny object laying on the sidewalk. It was a tiny gold metal charm shaped like a flower. Neither bronze, nor silver, but gold. In the center was a gold letter L, surrounded by a circle of blue enamel. I saw the faces of two roaring lions and read the word LIONS at the top and the word INTERNATIONAL at the bottom.

Lions Clubs International is the world’s biggest service club. The members, called Lions, help others in their local communities. I thought about the dandelions I had just picked, and I thought about the word dandy. Dandy means very good, as in dandy lion – a very good lion. I held in my hand was the lost charm of a dandy Lion! Was this merely coincidence?

I looked at the tiny metal charm and thought to myself, “It looks like a fairy-sized medal.” A medal is an award for being the best at something. It hangs around the neck on a ribbon. I could imagine a small fairy finding this charm and wearing it on a string around her neck.

I looked at the tiny medal charm and thought, “A medal is also an award given to a soldier for mettle.” Mettle means courage to carry on. If someone wants to test your mettle, they want to see if you have the heart to follow through when the going gets tough. Lions are associated with courage.

I looked at the tiny mettle charm, came to a decision and announced, “I give this tiny metal medal for mettle to the dandelion. Dandelions grow in some of the toughest places, in poor soil and up through cracks of asphalt. They tolerate frost, freezing cold and crowding. They grow fast and spread as quickly as the wind can scatter their seeds.

I looked at the charm and thought of fourth word, meddle, which means to mix or mess around in someone else’s business. This word stirred my imagination further. Do fairies meddle with people? I could imagine a small fairy carefully placing the charm down on the sidewalk and darting away into the bushes, giggling. All in good fun, of course!

A Writer’s Fairy Tale Continued: Our son, Neil, passed away with cancer in early 2017. Heartbroken, I was trying to figure out how to carry on with my life. This was difficult. Then, three months after Neil’s passing, I found another magical golden treasure on a sidewalk. My friend Gail, an artist whose primary medium is light metals, was showing me the new 2-mile walking path she had established in collaboration with the Health Equity Zone. The path runs through the most impoverished neighborhood in the City of Pawtucket, and it was created to promote more walking and safer walking. I had helped to inspire the concept before Neil became ill, and Gail had brought the idea into reality in the time since. As we began to walk, I saw an ornament lying on the sidewalk – a gold medallion. A medal-lion?

There were also many dandelions along the sidewalk. Dandelions are known for their detoxification effects, especially for cleansing the organs of heavy metal. All parts of the plant are edible, including the roots, stems, leaves and flowers. Each part will cleanse a different part of the body. Tea made from the root helps the digestive system, the stems support the liver and spleen, and the leaves detoxify the blood and lymphatic systems. 

Today while out walking, taking a break from writing this blog, I found three treasures… all mechanical pencils… in serviceable condition… in three different places along Cedar Avenue… perhaps telling me to carry on… keep on walking… dreaming… writing… and having fun with words… and so I shall.

I see… a high-caliber… sharp writer?


Jingle Bells, Jingle Shells

Walking Rome Point beach during low tide today, Dean and I noticed lots of iridescent Toenail Shells sticking out of the sand, shiny in the sunlight. These paper-thin hinged shells belong to a small mollusk. The upper half of the shell is convex and movable, while the lower half stays fixed in place. Byssal threads, secreted by a gland near the mollusk’s foot, pass through a hole in the bottom of the shell and anchor the creature to a rock or other hard substrate. Mollusks, which include scallops, clams, oysters and mussels, are filter feeders, taking in water and filtering plankton and other food through ciliated gills – gills with hairlike projections.

Toenail Shells we found scattered along the beach

Measuring 1-2 inches, the coin-shaped yellow-gold or silvery-colored shells of this mollusk are a treasure from the sea. I knew the Toenail Shell by another, a more fanciful, name. What was it? I couldn’t remember. Oh, well. Then as we continued walking along the shore, I spied a ball – a very odd ball. It was metallic-colored and perforated with two rows of oblong holes, like a big jingle bell. I picked it up, only to discover it was a plastic wiffle ball that had acquired a tarnished gold appearance from a thin coating of algae.

Jingle Ball or Jingle Bell?

Then I realized that in my hand I held a clue to answer my question. It was as if I were playing a game of charades with some unseen team mate. Sounds like… “Jingle Bells…” Jingle Shells!

Jingle shells are a favorite find for beachcombers, often used to make necklaces or wind chimes. The shell is named for the sound made when several shells are strung together as a chime. The jingle sound is also heard when waves beat down upon beaches strewn with shells, and it is the sound of lose coins shaking around in a money pouch.

A hand full of sea treasure

Jingle Shells, Jingle Bells… The jingle shells scattered around the beach made me think of the jingle bells we had strewn around the church reception hall after our son’s memorial service, almost two years ago. The bells were a token of remembrance for guests to take home. Each golden bell was tied with a gold ribbon, the symbol of childhood cancer, and sparkly pipe cleaner twists, our family’s symbol of spirit (jingle token shown in banner up top), which has a special story behind it…

When Neil was about five years old, he opened a bag of sparkly pipe cleaners, twisted them into odd shapes and scattered them on window sills and tables around our home. It was Christmas time, and he told us he was decorating the house with “spirits.” The setting out of spirits became his annual tradition, which we continue to do in his memory.

So, is it coincidence that I had written about a “lost jingle” in my blog just the day before?… “One unforgettable character in The Jester Has Lost His Jingle is a little girl lying in a hospital bed with her head wrapped in a bandage. The jester visits her room, talks with her and tries to cheer her up. It is the most precious moment of the story.” This page is where the Jester finds his lost jingle – his ability to bring joy and laughter to others. Maybe it is just coincidence.

David Saltzman’s illustration on the book page where the Jester finds his jingle

Is it coincidence that the only other piece of plastic trash I found on the beach was a red cap? A red cap with a crown insignia on it (the Jester wears a red cap)? A symbol that I interpret to mean the jingle ball was a secret divinely-timed message from the King of Fools? Maybe it is just coincidence or it is just me finding my own meaning in something silly.

The red cap

And, is it coincidence that I posted the following appeal on facebook yesterday? “We’ve raised over $20,000 for the Jester & Pharley Phund over the past two years in memory of our son, Neil, and we’re asking for your help to raise awareness, and $20,000 more, this coming week. Please share this story, and help send the ripples of love further outward. https://wendyfachon.blog/2019/02/15/be-a-difference-maker/

Is it any coincidence that today’s story reflects the section of a manuscript I was also working on yesterday, trying to explain my spiritual practice of Story Walking?… “Story Walking is best described as a spiritual detective reality game detective reality game that leads players into mystical encounters with Mother Nature and creative Spirit. Imagine opening the front door, stepping out onto a giant game board and into a storybook life… In Story Walking, players walk, look, listen and follow subtle clues that appear, usually at their feet, to guide the action forward… Players choose where to go and which path to follow in order to get there… Players make new choices based on what happens as the game advances forward. In other words, each player writes the part of the story over which he or she has control, while allowing the rest of the story to unfold as it will, asking that it do so for the higher good of all… Story Walking is learned through the sharing of stories that provide examples of where to walk, what types of clues to seek and how to interpret codes and signs. By sharing their own personal stories, Story Walkers teach others how to engage in the mysterious game.”

And, is it any coincidence that in the afternoon of the same day, as I was taking another walk around our neighborhood block, I found what appeared to be a little coin pouch? Something to hold a red cap and a few jingle shells or perhaps something to help collect coins? If you believe in the magic of a jingle, please consider giving $10 to The Jester & Pharley Phund , so that the Phund can send the Jester’s joyful story to a child facing a serious life challenge.

A pretty pouch