The Mountain, the Doll and Boundless Light

It is 6:15 am on December 7, 2022. I am starting my walk up to Piestewa Peak from the first parking lot in front of the entrance gate to the Nature Preserve. For more than two years now, when I am in town, I walk up to the peak in order to witness the sunrise with the drumming of the Taiko drummer Ken Koshio.


Clouds cover the sky today and reflect the city light down to earth. It is bright enough to see and I do not use a headlamp. The flat path soon becomes uneven and tricky to walk. Rocks are often in weird angles on the path and the mountain becomes steeper. I know my way. Nothing seems to have changed since I left six months ago. I pass the Palo Verde trees and the Ocotillo Cactus growing beside the path and enjoy the solitude.

The spicy scent of the Creosote bush still lingers in the air, because of the rain the day before. I walk in silence, only broken by the sound of my footsteps and the call of an owl in the distance.

I am a slow walker and need about an hour to reach the top. About 6 years ago, I created a little rock chapel in memory of my 16-year-old nephew.  A short climb leads me to my hidden, tiny chapel. Whenever I am there, I light a candle in this tiny place. The sound of a flute, however, tells me that Ken has started his ceremony already on the very top and I decide to come back later to perform my own ritual.


Powerful drumming fills the air. Ken is truly a master of his art, greeting the sun still partially covered by clouds, with thundering beats. Of his followers, only Erez is present today. He offers me a cup of hot tea – always a treat on the mountain top.

Not long after the ceremony, I start to climb down the nearly vertical rocks and am stopped by a weird sight. Deep in a crevice lies something I cannot figure out. My first thought is “again garbage somebody threw carelessly away!”  As I always take garbage away from the mountain, I bend down to lift it up. I discover, that it is not a plastic bottle but a little doll with big eyes and a bald head. “Oh, a little girl might have lost her doll” was my immediate reaction! I decide not to throw it away but bring it to one of my grandchildren.


When I arrive at my tiny chapel, I see a writing on the back of her head. It says “Abstinence!” Suddenly the entire meaning of this doll changes. Somebody with a heavy addiction has placed this doll deliberately in the crevice! Now I feel guilty that I took it away and decide to leave it on the mountain in my chapel area. With the thought of all the wounded children needing healing, I light a candle and start to walk down.

The face of this big-eyed doll does not leave me. The place where I put it feels suddenly so exposed and my regret to haven taken it out of the crevice even becomes bigger.

Early the next day, I walk up the mountain again and the light of the full moon illuminates my way. Two owls sit on a Palo Verde tree and call into the night. I can see their shape against the night sky.


Two owls sitting on the Palo Verde tree in the distance

Not many people are walking up. Ken passes me with his drum on his shoulders. We exchange a short “good morning!” The doll is still in my mind. I hope that nobody took it away. I feel the strong need to wrap the body with something for protection. As I have nothing with me, I decide to take anything I find on the way to swathe her body. To my surprise, I see a roll of unusual shape on the first stone bench. I take it and realise that the shape is a straw cap with a rubber band. When I arrive at the chapel, the doll still sits in the place where I had put it. However, another surprise is waiting for me – the entire candle was burned down, which never happened before. This was mysterious – the mountain and the wind let the candle burn for many hours to be like a protection, a message saying – we are here for you, you are not alone!



Carefully, I wrap the doll with the straw cap and look for a place. On the outermost rock pointing to the east, I find the perfect spot. In between high grass and the rock, I give it back to the mountain with the head pointing toward the east, the rising sun. Each day brings another opportunity for healing, it seems to say.  The boundless, limitless light always is present.




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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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