Magical Piestewa Peak, Part 2



Every morning since March 23rd, 2020, the Japanese Taiko drummer Ken Koshio climbs up the mountain to perform a ritual. Sometimes, he passes me with the drum on his shoulders at an incredible speed and there is no sign of tiredness. He is a mountain himself. He will continue this ritual until March 23rd, 2021 in honour of Lori Ann Piestewa, who died during the Iraq war on this day in 2003.



Ken carrying his drum on his way down to the parking lot of Piestewa Peak



Ken Koshio and his drum


His ceremony attracts a large group of supporters who gather before sunrise to celebrate the arrival of a new day. Over time, I got to know many of them. The characteristics for this group of people is inclusion and warm connection. There is a unity despite different nationalities, religion, age, gender and race. Marisa, the “Mother of this Mountain”, knows them all and is the big connector. People bring food and hot tea and a guy named David even carries up a camping coffee maker and serves coffee to everybody who wants a cup. This is especially appreciated when the temperature is around freezing.




Ken Koshio Family




From left to right – Marisa, Eriko, I and Melissa





Birthday of Irvin Foster, a member of the Navajo Nation. The coffee set brought up by David stands beside him.




Celebration of Hanukkah



Although there are many cultural and personal celebrations, when Ken Koshio starts his music, everybody is silent.  His drumming and songs become more and more powerful with the sun rising above the horizon. He recites an ancient song performed every 20 years for the rebuilding of the Ise Shrine, the most sacred site in Japan in honour of the sun goddess Amaterasu. His whole body becomes pure energy and I can see why he is calling himself a warrior of peace.




Ken Koshio



Celebration of the New Year, 2021




Unknown person with a Didgeridoo



During the celebration, often a little bird with an injured, stiff leg hops around without being restrained. This little bird symbolises the magic of this mountain. I call Piestewa Peak the “Mountain of letting go”. It is a mountain of transformation. Climbing up the mountain on a regular basis has changed the life of many people. It requires strong determination, strength and flexibility at the same time. There is Daryl, who is legally blind – he gets up at 2 am every morning and has to take two public buses in addition to having to walk one mile to get to the bus. There is Jeremy who lost his arm and climbs like a mountain goat (takes part in the paraolympic competitions) and a person with only one leg, who makes it to the top with two supporting walking sticks. Every morning, two friends, Ruben and Sam, climb up the steep slope at the ages of 85 and 86 and always have smiles on their faces. And there are much more….




Rubin climbing up to the top with his two self made walking sticks



People dress up for Christmas and even bring a Christmas tree up to the top. Sometimes, you hear a person loudly reciting a mantra when dancing down the mountain and most of the time there is chatter between people, often in Spanish.




It is Christmas!



Rain is rare in Phoenix and the rocks can become dangerously slippery.  However, most of the time the clouds disappear after sunrise.




Sunrise with Camelback mountain in the east.




Ocotillo cactus beside the path.



Although walking down is faster and easier, it still needs focus and attention. Sometimes a desert animal crosses the path.




Gila Monster bathing in the sun




Little Squirrel asking for food





Born and raised in a village along the Danube in Austria, Traude Wild soon ventured out into the world. After a two-year program for tourism in Klesheim/Salzburg, she spent nearly a year in South Africa and Namibia. By returning back to Austria, she acquired a Master of Economics at the University of Vienna. After moving to the United States with her four children, she studied Art History at Arizona State University and stayed in the United States for fourteen years. Here, she was teaching Art History in several Universities like Webster University and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Now, she lives partially in Arizona and Vienna and works together with her husband for the University of South-Carolina, Moore School of business as Adjunct Professor organising and leading Study tours in Central Europe. She also teaches at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. Since 1999, she is practicing Zen meditation in the lineage of Katagiri Roshi. She loves to hike and to write and is a student of Natalie Goldberg. During her often many weeks long hikes she brings her awareness into the Here and Now, describing her experiences in an authentic way. She loves to walk pilgrimages. The longest hike so far was the 1,400 km long 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan in 2016.

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  1. I can definitely see why you enjoy these walks. And it is quite poignant that Ken would do this in memory of his friend Lori.

    • You would love this walk, Don! And yes, Ken walks up every day regardless of weather and performs this ritual with sincerity and dedication. He does it for peace and in memory of Lori, the daughter of his Hope friend. Love, Traude


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