From dust to tribe . . .

Dust and Tribe (D&T) is the experience of growth through adventure.

Our fall and spring signature excursions are annual opportunities for Muslim men and women to push through the boundaries of supposed mental and physical limits into a new awareness of what we can be when we support one another.

It is where we discover what we are (dust) and what we become together (tribe).

Spring 2016: D&T Grrrl!

On April 22nd, fifteen women left for three days and two nights camped out on an island two-hours off the California coast. This blog is their story!

D&T Lite! is a scaled-down version of these signature experiences. With exciting and novel day trips for men, women, children, couples, and families throughout the year, D&T Lite! is your chance to smash convention and rediscover radical adventure, high purpose, and sacred community.

D&T Rundamentalist is an exclusive, members-only trail-running club to end all. We bomb hillsides and terrorize small mammals with our thundering footfalls. Fitness, fun, and friends, we push each other to achieve what would never be possible otherwise.

May God protect, guide, and help us.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Santa Cruz Island: Part III

The majority of the women were perfectly content to watch the sun melt at Potato Harbor.

But Sisters Tracie, Farah, Wanda, and Adina had other plans. I wondered at their decision to break from the relative safety of the larger group.

Sister Farah, one of the Cloud Women, had this to say:
Why did we split off?
We were looking for an adventure, and sometimes that means going off from the main vessel.
We wanted to push ourselves and our conversations were too deep to turn around and go back. Once or twice we thought maybe we've gone too far but it didn't stop us. I think the fact that we were going too far was exactly what we wanted.
We saw some amazing sights because of it. Sister Tracie told us the view was like Hawaii. I felt my trip had just doubled in reward.
We prayed up there as best we could with gusty winds pushing us back and forth- trying to keep my feet on the ground became my goal. We put our hands out like we were flying and maybe we were.
Who knows?
Sunset was done and we sat in pseudo-yoga poses and tried to really soak in where we were and what we were doing. After awhile, we met a couple on top of the hill and confirmed the direction back to camp.
It was on the way home that we saw a shining pair of eyes in the dark looking out at us from the wilderness.

And in the dark our songs became supplications. My pepper spray was ready to go if needed.
Back at camp, the other women were getting worried. Sister Safia said this:
When we came back down the hill and the other four girls weren't with us, that was not fun. For me it was a fight between I'm hungry and I want to eat and being worried about the group of ladies behind us. Did they even have a flashlight with them? No cell phones and it's dark. Did they go the wrong way? Sister Tracie acquired a reputation as the lady with the gadgets and when we heard that she had a flashlight with her we were somewhat relieved.
Sister Lobna, Coyote and amira of the three clans, doubled-back along the darkened trail and called for the women. Far off in the gloom she only just made out flickering lights.

Sister Farah tells what happened: 
Once we got to a point where we could see camp, we faked up some language of flashing lights which was supposed to say "we are okay." And from camp they signaled back what we took to mean "ok good." We never practiced it or even spoke about the potential need of doing that, but we had either watched too many of the same movies or had an instinct to know what to do.
When we finally arrived we laughed and the others laughed at how we didn't know how to communicate with flashlights.
Most of the women had already started eating dinner. It was part of the newness of each other that we didn't feel worried about the other party being late, or maybe it was a way to believe in and trust that everything would be okay.
Verily with the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.
Sister Amira embraced her role as her clan's Spoon Keeper. She made sure that all had eaten their fill and directed clean-up and disposal like a champ. The meal and the bedtime preparations which followed took on a communal quality with all doing their part before hitting their tents.

Sister Khadeejah described the wind that first night. "For some," she said, "the noises were imagined to be the sounds an infant might hear within her mother's womb. For others there was the fear that their tent might blow away or a branch might come crashing down."

And what occurs to us as our circumstances unfold is the beginning of learning. From this, we encounter our patterns. And then we decide to persist or change, with God's permission.

Sleep came to the women and with it the lingering promise of a new day.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Santa Cruz Island: Part II

Sister Rayesa brought a big tent. It was the perfect spot for some much needed rest. Sometimes, however, when we find ourselves both exhausted and in a new place, it happens that novelty and fatigue make warring demands within our minds and bodies. Such was the case with Sister Safia, Coyote of the Chumash Women.
I took a light nap in a great big tent that Sister Rayesa generously brought with her. My ears were pricked though, making sure that nobody went on a hike without me. Some of us were planning to head back to Scorpion Anchorage, and I would join them.

The place was rough and gorgeous, God’s Beauty that compelled our gaze. On the half-mile trip back we passed by green foliage that never tires the eye. We eventually reached the beach.

Some of us dipped our feet into the water and screamed about how cold it was. To the right of us we noticed a bunch of rocks piled along the wall of a great cliff. In our excitement for our first adventure on the island, we began to climb over the rocks to see the beach from a different angle.

After climbing for awhile, Sisters Tracie, Wanda, Khadeejah, Umm Iman, and I found our favorite rocks to sit on. There was some small talk, but mostly we were silent, each of us alone with God and His creation, watching, thinking, and working to be at peace and mentally just let go.

God it felt darn good, too. Like what I was doing at that moment, was something I hadn’t done in a very long time. And I missed it.
After awhile it got cold and it was time for the women to head back to camp. On the way back, Sister Safia found a stick that became her boon companion for the duration of their adventure:

I don’t know what I would have done without it. I would have definitely fallen more, slipped more, and who knows what else. I found it while hiking back from the beach area. It was laying on the ground, partly hidden. I picked it up thinking how nice and straight it was. Little did I know how attached to it I would get!
I took it EVERYWHERE. It had a nice flat edge at the bottom to dig into the ground while walking. It looked like someone had it before me because someone must have shaped the bottom part of the stick. However, at that time I convinced myself that I was the first one to find it. The more I inspected my stick, the more I appreciated it. It had a nice smooth grip on it, long enough to keep me walking straight but not too long that it was above my height. It was perfect.

A stick helped to change the course of empires in Pharaonic Egypt. May we all be blessed with companions that keep us "walking straight."

Back at camp, it was time for a little food and rest. Fueled up and in spite of the lengthening shadows, there was a new buzz at camp: sunset at Potato Harbor.

That's a five-mile trek, and they were ready. Sister Safia describes the hike:

So now was my opportunity to hike on these gorgeous hills. I was exhilarated! Rolling hills of green as far as the eye can see. Is this what I have been missing, zoning out late at night watching TV?
While hiking, I learned to take it slow. There was no rush. I rush enough already back home, I thought. And I was feeling like a legit hiker with my hiking stick. So no rush.
I also learned that I wasn’t much of a talker. I would talk but slowly trail behind to take it all in. It was nice to see everyone being able to do their own thing. No one got upset when someone trailed off. We all understood people wanted their silent time, too.
They ambled their way through the hills and onto the cliffs overlooking Potato Harbor. Al-hamdu lillah wa shukr lillah, the women found their spot.

Have you ever been in the middle of something and you just had no idea how big a deal it was until way too late? That's us in every moment, if we're not careful.

Sunsets are wonderful. Sitting is one way to take them in. But there were some among the tribe with different ideas.

Sisters Tracie, Farah, Wanda, and Adina split from the main group to continue exploring. Laughter and song could be heard from far off, but when the women of the cliff rose for camp, the four wanderers could not be found.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Santa Cruz Island: Part I

It's been nearly a month since the fifteen pioneering women of D&T Grrrl! ventured across the treacherous Santa Barbara Channel to spend three days on Santa Cruz Island.

There are certainly things that happened on their journey that will remain concealed from the wider world. This is the way of things. For all that is apparent, there is an equal and balancing mystery.

However, the Tale-Weavers among them, Sisters Khadeeja, Mariam, and Tracie, have brought back something of their experience. What follows is an amalgam of their words and mine. And I'll start by saying that perhaps only a farmer or a mariner can relate to how closely we all studied the weather in the week leading up to their departure.

The forecast called for wind and rain.

For so many of these women, it would be their first time camping, or their first time in the exclusive company of their sisters, or their first time on a boat, and certainly their first time on Santa Cruz Island. Fear and doubt are to be expected, and I spent a good amount of time playing on those themes as a way of enhancing mindfulness and firming intention.

But, at bottom, I wanted sunshine and rainbows for this troop. As the week unfolded, it became apparent that rain wouldn't be an issue, but the wind situation was sketchy. Wind means waves. Those waves get to a certain intensity and boats stay out of the channel.

And here I want to report on the incredible fortitude of these women. Despite the prospect of a very bumpy crossing, or even no crossing at all, not a single person dropped out. That's unprecedented.

I've been putting together wilderness trips for the better part of a decade. And almost exclusively for men. There are drop-outs every year.

These women were all on that dock in Ventura on the morning of April 22, 2016.

Sister Mariam tells us how her day started:
My considerate and thoughtful husband packed my backpack. I stumbled out the door, a bit off-balance with all my gear, and I drove off at 4:30 in the morning to meet up with the lovely and introspective Sister Syma and the rest of the ladies for our carpool. We prayed fajr at Sister Lobna’s house. Our prayer made the trip to our meet-up destination a lot less stressful. It was like a work-out, but a spiritual and mental work-out that gave us the brain pump for the rest of the ride.
But Ventura is at least a two-hour ride from Sister Mariam's home. The long ride took its toll, on her and on others.
Not sleeping enough the night before, staying up and doing my laundry and packing my bag at 4 a.m.- I was tired. I was mentally foggy and my face carried that unfortunate expression as well. Sister Lobna and I made sure to pop our motion sickness pills an hour before the boat ride. I was very vigilant about taking the pills. Sister Anjum was gracious and offered some bracelets that supposedly would ward off any waves of nausea and I quickly snapped them on my wrists for extra good measure. You could never be too sure, and honestly I was not too sure. I am generally a “less is more” kind of woman but in that moment I was definitely all about more is more.
Eventually we got on the boat and I started searching for a place to focus on not getting sick and space out without the commotion around me. I needed to make sure I was not going to have a volcanic eruption on the boat. The man listing the rules before we shipped off emphasized that our stomach contents should be emptied over the railing to feed the fish and sea life beneath the boat.

Hood over my hijab and black glasses to hide my face, I slumped against the rails of the boat feeling a little masculine. I stuck my hands deep into the pockets of my pants and enjoyed the feel of the fabric. I wear dresses and jackets most of the time and I really enjoyed my adventure attire.

The boat began to move and I braced myself internally and physically. I forced my laced up hiking shoes to stay on the boat’s deck. I silently prayed that I was not going to get sick and that’s when it got rocky.
Not all were as sensitive. Sister Khadeeja reports:
The boat ride to the island was, for most, a comfortable scenic ride, though some had motion sickness. Some of us sat together, some slept, some stood watching the waves and dolphins. At one point we tried to get a peek at a gray whale and her calf.
Crossing the channel can take up to two hours depending on conditions and wildlife. Eventually, the women found themselves in Scorpion Anchorage.

It's a lovely, sheltered harbor. Usually. The surges got bad enough last year that the pier was washed out. That makes landing a little more challenging. Sister Khadeeja tells us what happened next:
Once we approached Scorpion Anchorage, we took a small skiff to the shore and unloaded our gear as a community.

They had to pack their gear about a mile to their campsite. Sister Khadeeja continues:
Some packed light, others heavy, but everyone helped each other to the campsite. After a scenic walk through what felt like meadows of the past, we arrived at our campsite to be greeted by little foxes searching for food.

The weather was holding, but the ladies couldn't take any chances. Setting up camp was the first order of business.

After that, Sister Khadeeja led the tribe through the Opening Circle. It's an initiatic moment where words of our blessed Prophet are shared, may God's peace and blessings be upon him, while taking the hand of another. Here, she describes the experience:
Taking a direct chain of narration back to the Prophet, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, we all held hands and heard words that, for a moment, made us feel like we were holding the hands of God’s Messenger. That would give us the strength we needed to get through the tough times in our life.
Rising well before dawn, these fifteen women had journeyed from their homes, across the sea, and, by way of these initiatic words, through the millennia to that primordial place that is the beginning and ending of discovery.

It was time for a nap.