Steve Kiesling chats about Druidic enlightenment, time in nature, and what's featured in our July/August 2023 issue.
Like Kristoffer Hughes, my new Druid friend in Wales, I have my own tree. When the leaves are out, it’s just another Oregon ash. But underneath the leaves, the branches are an impossibly tangled mess that I first saw dance under the influence of Oregon’s now legal psilocybin. During that “Wild Awakening” (to use Hughes’ words) we bonded: That mess of a tree is me! The other day, as we were starting to close this third installment of our 25th Anniversary, a Zen Buddhist friend came to visit and we sat on the deck and watched the river and talked about enlightenment. When my friend left, I watched my tree, still dancing, and thought of wildly-awakened Druids. Alas, I run no risk of enlightenment, but Hughes’ words resonate:
“I would say that we’re not a tradition of enlightenment. We’re a tradition of illumination, and that illumination moves us to have a deeper understanding of oneself in relationship with the organism that we live upon. So, I think the ultimate function is of potential symbiosis…”
Looking back, my first Wild Awakening happened in sixth grade when my mom, my older brother, and I sailed on a schooner about the size of HMS Beagle to the Galapagos Islands. I was seasick for days, but eventually got to swim with iguanas, penguins, too. I held boobies (red-footed and blue)! I got nudged by a bull sea lion for having too much fun surfing with his mates, but it was just a nudge. In this ecosystem that evolved in isolation, the state of nature seemed playful and unafraid, which now seems proof that surfing and dance and joy existed long before there was an I to try and possess them. My dog Milli gets that. She’s looking at me now, exasperated: Why are you still staring at that screen?
Well, Milli, because this is so much fun. Just not for you! As editor, I get to play in the minds of wonderful people: old friends, and new! Julie Peters stands on her head, Laurie Sue Brockway painted a unicorn, Sarah Bowen morphed into her pet, and Elisabet Lahti ran the length of New Zealand— just for a new perspective on this “wild and precious life.” Meanwhile, Allan Hamilton, MD, shares a classic Zen swordsman story to explain why horses probably provide the best laboratory for understanding classic enlightenment. For healing awakenings, Kim Hermanson tells of surviving a head-on collision to wake up to the raw healing power of metaphor. And Peggy La Cerra broke free of depression by awakening to the realization that, at the end of the day—and the beginning—it’s all comes down to simple thermodynamics. Fun stuff!
Right now, I hope you’ll go out and find your own tree. Bring the magazine and take time to sit in the shade and savor the art that Sandra Salamony pulled together and read the words of our featured artist, Shachi Kale. Maybe work out the crossword puzzle. Then consider that someday you could become part of your tree and your tree could become part of an issue of S+H to be read under another special tree. It’s all connected to the World Tree! All you need do is click here and share a gift subscription.