The Middle Way

Zen Spot #181 — Mindfulness, meditation and the red grandmama dress April 21, 2018 00:00

It takes a village

Painted on the side of a small building in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, when I first saw this mural I instantaneously searched for a doorway that would allow me walk into the building of the dress. To be clear, I wasn’t looking for the front door of the structure on which the mural was painted. My mind wanted to become part of the parable told by the painting, I suppose. 
The rendering left me begging for a kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, windows, a spiral staircase and the warmth of a home inside the dress. I wasn’t expecting the cheap thrill of cartoon legs or a set of clicking ruby slippers. No, my mind’s eye sought a portal to the village outside of the home inside the dress.

A housecoat and sweet, hot tea

My maternal grandmother lived with an apron cinched over one of seven housecoats, each worn for a particular day of the week. The style was common across her sisters, cousins and neighbors. Omnipresent, the apron never seemed to get dirty when making meals. Instead, it seemed to take the place of the pearls she would never be able to afford. Live inside that idea for a second — a world where jewels are replaced by utilitarian fashion that never gets dirty. 

My brother and I rarely stayed at her home overnight. Among the breakfast treats, when we did, was hot tea filled with as much milk and sugar as desired. Toast, jelly, eggs, bacon and lots of tea. 

Her home, in my mind, tastes like hot tea with sugar and milk

A truck driver bought that housecoat and dress

My grandparents went dancing every Saturday night at a local social club and, for four hours every week, my grandmother wore a red dress with a faux-embroidered floral pattern. Perhaps she had a black dress for funerals and weddings, but the red dress meant joy and fun. While my grandfather saw it every week, its existence, for me, took only the form of Polaroid pictures. He drove a truck so she could have that dress and have that fun.

He never cooked a meal, but loved hot tea with sugar and milk.


In the mural, I never noticed the blue infant in the basket just below the woman’s forearm until I began to describe my desire to find a doorway. And, from the instant I first saw the female figure I perceived the woman to be a grandmother. The figure’s curiosity belies youth, however. Her examination of the house — and the houses — portends a search for safety, and a place for a child to play. 

Too, I believe she is looking for the doorway — imagining a kitchen, parlor, bedrooms, windows, a spiral staircase and the warmth of a home in the circle of life. 

I'll bet she makes hot tea with sugar and milk.


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?