The Middle Way

Zen Spot #56 --  Mindfulness, meditation and the Roxborough reservoir fortress January 21, 2018 23:04

No guard towers or gargoyles

Imagine a fortress filled to the brim with water. Clear, clean, cool, life-giving holy water. Whatever is inside the fortress — buildings, bulldozers, chicken coops, soup cans, churches — is fully immersed in the holy. Imagine swimming in circles around a steeple that barely breaks the surface.

The fortress is a reservoir. One hundred years old. Abandoned. Ivy creeping and eating, sometimes swallowing. Wildlife quiet, but there. Wonderful.

It’s not full of holy water.

A square city block of stone block walls

The masonry is interlocked and impenetrable. Thirty feet high in places, the monster has power and begs to be climbed. And it is a monster. Or a siren. It calls out to be scaled with no regard for the consequences. It reaches the curious child inside the citizen.


The architect built a fifty-step stairway into the northern corner. Climb it to find a broad dirt and asphalt path along the perimeter — at least thirty feet wide — that allows you to stop and stand, surprised. Enough forest opens up inside the bowl of the fortress for a thousand species to hide. 

Holes from a bolt cutter 

A chain-link fence surrounds the songs from the woods. In places, human beings have peeled back openings that offer access to paradise. Find a place to lay down next to the water or among the trees and you are in Yosemite or Central Park or the Black Forest.  

Listen to a snake. Watch a toad wait. Name a fox you’ll never see. Question the fish. Become one.

In winter

It was cold when I visited. February. The reservoir sits at the highest point in Philadelphia. The wind was wicked along the perimeter. I tore my coat squeezing through an ancient hole in the fence. Brambles, fallen branches and detritus engulfed me immediately. Everything stood still. The wind died once inside. There was nothing to hear. The sun was bright and incredibly warm on my face. 

I found a small level clearing overlooking the water, laid down, took a deep breath and disappeared for a little while.


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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