The Middle Way

Zen Spot #85 — Mindfulness, meditation, detritus, the dead, the dying, the smiling February 6, 2018 00:05

Forbidden Drive

In northwestern Philadelphia, at the farthest edge of the city, a foot path begins that winds its way into Center City, over ten miles away. Forty feet wide and covered with a mix of gravel and hard earth, the ground is almost black. A canopy of trees, forty feet above, protects everyone and every thing from the sun. 

Strollers. Runners. Lovers. Families. Dogs. Horses. Deer. Snakes. 

The path's name draws visitors, voyeurs, natives and the naive. The seduction is real though— if you can be seduced by a wilderness confined completely within Fairmount Park which, in turn, is completely confined within the city limits.

A destination within a destination within a destination within a destination--infinitely, if one considers every rock and branch and fish over which the intimately adjacent Wissahickon Creek flows.

An almost afterlife

Between the path and the creek, the landscape drops off dramatically. Perhaps a fifty-five degree angle in parts. On the other side of the path, a hill rises almost vertically.

In heavy rain, weak trees and dead leaves and fallen branches wash down the hill toward the water but get caught between the path and the creek. Thick with a demolition derby of dead and dying vegetation, there is no blood. Rich soil splattered with an almost afterlife piles up, camouflaging nothing.

Greek philosophy

Hericlitus introduced the world to the idea of being and becoming. At its core, the belief holds that nothing is constant. All people and all things are evolving. Existing and persistently changing in that time before birth and that time after death. Each flying by the other at warp speed. 

Bouncing. Breaking. Thriving. Decaying.

In the moment

I realized, while stopping to look down at a small waterfall, that water appeared to be still was, in fact, moving slowly. The lives of leaves were ending, becoming soil. Wood was bleaching and rotting. Bark was blistering in the sun. Dirt was blackening and softening more every day, as it chewed and swallowed whatever couldn’t make it to the creek and downstream into a dam.

Before me was the time/space animation of water and a time-lapse story of the death of anything on the floor. Rot residing eighty feet below the canopy. A swath of life, between the detritus and the treetops, that holds millions of trunks and trillions of leaves and every animal natural to this woods, burgeoning. 

Fighting. Stinking. Smiling. Eating. Swaying. Farting. Crying. Singing. Jumping. Strolling. Running. Loving.

A full circle.


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

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?