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!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Deadly Droppings

For awhile, it's doubtful you'll even know there's a problem.

Early symptoms will mimic all the things you might expect from a weekend out in the wilderness. Sore legs and shoulders. Fatigue. When the headache and and fever starts, you'll figure it had something to do with your drafty tent. And when you vomit you'll figure it was the boat-ride.

When the coughing starts some 4-10 days later, your pride will take a beating. "I told you you shouldn't have gone on that silly trip!" You'll hear it from somebody, but you won't let it get to you.

Until you can hardly breathe. Then you'll start to wonder. And worry.

One survivor said it felt like a ". . . tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face."

That's what it feels like when your lungs are filling up with fluid and you're drowning from the inside.

That's what it feels like fighting your way through hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.

I remember my first time on Santa Cruz Island. It was summer-time and the whole place was browned over. There wasn't any running water back then- you had to pack it all in.

We hauled our gear from the beach to the campsite, big 50lb containers of water sloshing around the whole way. It seemed like forever, but we were in high spirits, and it felt good to finally make camp.

As I recall, we did a little fishing. We got some bites. One of the guys brought up a sandshark:

That was exciting. We cut the line, let the shark go and made our way back to our campsite. We prepared our dinner as the sun dropped down behind the western hills.

That's when the earth woke up. The ground beneath our feet began to churn and rustle. We had never seen anything like it. The shadows thrown by our lanterns exaggerated the movements of the shifting leaf litter. It was mice. Millions of them, it seemed, and all moving at once.

We dove into our tents. I was sleeping alone and zipped mine up just in time. I could hear their feet criss-crossing the canvas, see their darting silhouettes as they ran up and over my shelter.

Others weren't so lucky. Four men were sharing one tent and the zipper got stuck. I will never forget their screams.

That night of unspeakable horror finally passed and the light of morning revealed absolute destruction.

My toilet paper had been devoured. My bar of soap reduced to slivers. My backpack was open and inside was the stuff of nightmares.

Mouse droppings.

Smaller than a grain of rice, they might not look like much. But mouse droppings are the repositories of the deadly hantavirus.

Signs were posted all over the island warning of the terminal malady. With a mortality rate approaching 40%, there was certainly good reason for signage. And now, with these tiny little turds all over my bag, my life was in the balance.

Well, I'm happy to report that that was many years ago. I'm pretty sure I'm alright, but anybody that spends enough time with me will come to know my signature cough. I think it's stress related, but it could be festering mouse crap.

Back in those days the ecosystem was all out of wack. Golden eagles had taken up residence and eaten up all of the foxes, so the rodent population exploded. A while back they brought in some bald eagles that ran out the golden eagles. The foxes are back and the mice are under better control.

But hantavirus is still all over the island. You can read the most recent warning here.

Behold the face of DEATH!

That little hand, though.


  1. aww, that picture of you in the flowers! So cute! :P

    1. I wish you were coming with us you sound like a lot of fun mashallah:)

    2. If, by that comment, buttercup, you are referring to the fact that both the mouse and I, though diminutive, are rather striking with our gray hair and whiskers, then I applaud your keen eye and robust aesthetic sensibilities.

      If you're saying that you believe me a diseased rodent, you're grounded.

    3. I guess I'm grounded then.
      @bintmuslim thank you, jaja.

  2. Loool great now we know that your dad looks like a mouse that gives hantavirus. BTW campers, called the island ppl they said the only issue is making sure we seal up everything well. Things that we leave outside, the ranger can give us foxboxes(?)or metal boxes to seal it all up. The ranger didn't seemed worried at all:) so keep smiling!

    1. Calling the officials, are you?

      I'm impressed, Coyote.