The Middle Way

Zen Spot #58 --  Mindfulness, meditation and a raging mine fire below January 27, 2018 00:05

Centralia, PA

With the exception of two beautifully kept homes near the main road, the building above is the only residential structure I found during my visit to this ghost town. Streets that once teemed with families and children have been razed. Woods have swallowed everything. A ridge at the highest point of the town that used to look down on the lights of perhaps 400 homes, now overlooks forest as far as the eye can see — with the exception of The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary across the valley.

From a population of 1200 in 1970, the town has dwindled to 7. The federal government claimed the town after a 12 year old boy almost fell through a fissure that had opened in the earth. Nothing but broken asphalt, retaining walls, dirt trails and a cemetery remain.

A coal mine fire has raged underground since 1962.

Hell fire

The comparison to a Christian eternity is easy, especially since little evidence exists of the fire. Steam used to rise from the main hillside and, in autumn, can still sometimes be seen escaping from gashes in an abandoned section of Route 61. When I first heard of the inferno, thirty-five years ago, my knees buckled before Mass. Today, I was standing at the top of the hillside, looking at the church in the distance.

Hell fire below

The home in the photograph sits above the main fire field. My imagination runs. I touched the ground not knowing what to expect. 

Believing. Hoping.

Front porch

The home is beaten more savagely on the inside than out. Rats and vandals. Both gone. No reason to stay. No food. No walls. Everything broken, sitting directly above. 

The last structure — sitting directly above.

To describe hell as suffering or suffering as hell is insufficient. I am insufficient. Sitting on the porch, in the shade, I am reminded of the first two gods.


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit

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