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!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Santa Cruz Island: Part IV

The women woke, alive and well after their first night on the island. There were a few who woke early enough to offer the night vigil before taking in the sunrise. For these, the gift of quiet solitude was theirs to savor in the cool and breezy darkness.

With the sun came breakfast and the women took their meal and made their plans for the eight mile out-and-back hike to Smugglers Cove.

Not all were up for the trek, however. Some were not feeling well and the group's amira, Sister Lobna, took it upon herself to stay behind and see to them. While the other women were preparing to explore the world around them, this decision to remain at camp allowed for another kind of exploration altogether.

For the women who set out, a tailwind made the journey easy. The women enjoyed getting to know one another, and the conversation carried them along with the southerly breezes. "If we give each other time," Sister Khadeeja said, "we learn a lot."

Once at Smugglers Cove, the group was hungry. Emptying their packs, they attempted to assemble what food each had brought into a communal meal. The results were bizarre, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Sister Khadeeja tells us the story:

With a hodge-podge of food, we all had the most memorable of meals. Everyone pooled their goods and dug in. The most interesting concoctions were invented. Who thought tuna poured into an empty avocado shell with Cheeze-It crackers could taste so good?

I know that flavor. It's love and gratitude. And absolute joy. Hunger, it has been said, is the best condiment.

After their meal some of the women played in the water:

Others dozed on the beach. And some of the women would take turns placing sun-warmed stones on their backs, a hot-rock massage compliments of God and the delightful ingenuity of the group.

Sister Safia described the moment:

It was like God's natural massage room waiting for us to use. God has definitely made this world comfortable. He could have made everything black and white or one type of temperature always. But no. He gave us hot stones to lay upon after freezing water. With every difficulty there is ease, and at that moment ease came as warm stones upon our backs.

On the way back, as in the day before, some women opted for an alternate route back, but in the end everybody was reunited safely at their campsite.

Shadows grew long and it was soon obvious that this night would be colder and windier than the night before. From my home in Long Beach I had been tracking the weather. There were warnings in place that with the increased wind would come higher tides. There was the possibility that boats would not be able to reach the women. If that were the case, they would be forced to stretch their meager supplies another day or two. I worried for them.

Dinner was rushed and the women made the decision to cram into Sister Rayesa's six-person tent to stay warm. As the wind bowed trees and tore at the tent's walls, the women huddled together in what became mystical communion.

Sister Safia shared this:

Sacred is the word that I would use to describe what happened in the tent that night. I still have chills thinking about it. Stripped of our phones, our homes, our comfort, and even our makeup, the faces of my sisters shone brighter than ever. We cried tears that purified us and relieved us. We laughed out loud in that way you only do with those whom you've known forever. I know none of us will forget that night.

I loved my sisters that night with their tired eyes and hungry tummies. It was a sacred night that could only have happened with a group of women with whom you have struggled, whether on a windy hike or through the fatigue and illness that kept some of us down.

Sleep eventually came to the women. Their rising was bittersweet. The weather had calmed and word had come that the boats were coming early. Their time on the island was ending. They could all look forward to hot showers and the comforts of urban domesticity. But this wild place, these beautiful women- this was drawing to a close.

They reflected on their time together as breakfast was taken in the warmth of a full and bright sun. They broke down their tents, packed their gear, and set out for the anchorage to wait for the boat.

Thinking back to that final morning together, Sister Safia, in her gratitude, penned this in honor of her sisters, the pioneering women of Dust and Tribe's inaugural spring outing:

Thank you, Sister Tracie, for your acceptance of us.
Thank you, Sister Lobna, for keeping the momentum going on the trip.
Thank you, Sister Syma, for not wanting to leave anyone behind and for your photography.
Thank you, Umm Iman, for being inspiring with your words and your kindness.
Thank you, Sister Adina, for climbing trees and for your poems.
Thank you, Sister Zenith, for being a nurse and telling me to take off my beanie so I don’t get dehydrated.
Thank you, Sister Anjum, for your maturity and advice about not letting cultural baggage define you as a woman.
Thank you, Sister Wanda, for your strength and passion.
Thank you, Sister Sarah, for your supplications and conversation on our last hike.
Thank you, Sister Farah, for carpooling with me and for putting hot stones on my back.
Thank you, Sister Mariam, for being so funny and making a rough night easier.
Thank you, Sister Amira, for spoiling me with your cooking and setting up our tents.
Thank you, Sister Khadeeja for the spiritual guidance and your peaceful strength.
Sister Rayesa, no thanks to you for stealing a piece of my heart with your warmth and sincerity!

And thank you, Sister Safia, for helping us to recognize what sincerity and gratitude looks like.

Islands are precarious places. Should the water rise high enough, what was once a place of immeasurable beauty and sanctuary might disappear altogether. This Atlantean tragedy can unfold for anyone of us at any time. Storms ravage and winds squall and in such times there is ever the threat of being swallowed altogether.

But we are not islands. We are human beings interconnected through a Divine thread that can be held fast by others when we are too tired to continue fighting our way above the water. May each of you hold tightly to the Divinity within each other. May the recalling of these events freshen for you the sincerity with which you continue to pray for one another.

May you continue to come together in warmth and friendship, and may your final gathering be in that Highest of Promised places.


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.