Today we’d like to introduce you to Ahmed Pierstorff.
So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It started in 2001 with a tree and a baby.
I was a new father and my 18-month old daughter was throwing a tantrum. She was inconsolable. None of the old standbys were working to calm her. Not food, none of her toys, not even a hug.
In desperation, I picked her up and stepped out our front door.
The shift was immediate. The crying yielded to halting sniffles. Her eyes grew wide as she took in the world around her. She reached for a tree.
I told her it was a tree. It had bark and branches and leaves. And that’s when it hit me.
I didn’t know anything else about the tree. My baby girl was going to ask me things. Lots of things. I would be her primary source of guidance and information in her most impressionable years, and I couldn’t even tell her the name of the tree outside our front door.
Which told me, in that moment, that I had not previously cared to know anything about this tree which now consoled my child in a way that neither of her parents could. The tree had never been a part of my awareness and the notion that essential things had somehow escaped my attention, perhaps to the detriment of my children, jabbed at me like a missed deadline.
I ordered a field guide on trees and learned that the tree outside was a sycamore.
Reasoning that the natural world is the birthplace of all else, I learned about more trees and plants and after many years, I began to teach others about their uses as food and medicine. This took me further and further afield and those informal outings became organized hikes and weekend camping trips.
It was now 2012. Dust and Tribe was the name given to a small community of men and women who took seriously the idea of building a relationship with the natural world. Such a relationship promised growth and connection beyond the immediate utility of knowing plants and their uses. I had seen that in the energy between the sycamore and my infant daughter.
We continue this work through “growth adventures,” challenges designed to bring people into novel experience with the natural world. Trail marathons, llama treks, kayak camping, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, and winter backpacking are some of the ways we get people outside. We want people to try new things and to have conversations with others about our primal connection with the elements and the implications of deepening that connection for ourselves, our families, and the greater society.
But Dust and Tribe isn’t only about creating meaningful outdoor experiences. We believe in growth through adventure. We leverage the bonds created in those transformational outings and continue to build community through our online message boards and virtual Campfire Chat, an open-forum for members to share their thoughts on current events. We host a book club, a film club, and a personal-growth invitational we call Steps where participants compete in weekly contests to earn prizes and money for charity. We update our blog and release our podcast every week to keep everyone connected.
Though all creeds are welcome, the work of Dust and Tribe is deeply informed by my identity as a Muslim. Islam is a faith tradition believed by its adherents to be the Natural Way. The Islamic calendar is based on lunar phases. The five daily prayers track the position of the sun. All of creation is understood to be imbued with lessons or signs that will, ultimately, lead us back to a fuller awareness of our origin in, and eventual return to, the Divine.
Has it been a smooth road?
I work full-time as a nurse. Finding the energy and resources to remain consistent in adventure planning and community building is the biggest challenge.
We live in a time of great distraction and it’s necessary to hold onto the attention of people long enough to impress upon them the relevance of this work and the community we’ve built. It’s important to stay in contact with members while at the same time keeping any exclusivity from creeping in that might deter others from exploring Dust and Tribe. But this regular, ongoing communication takes a lot of time and attention, two things that I may find in short supply at the end of my nursing shift.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
In addition to adult, coed adventures, we stage events for men only and for women only. We host a summer family trip. We have a rites-of-passage series for father and son and for mother and daughter. And we have our mental health adventure programs where we use rock climbing as the basis for reframing our experience of divorce and grief.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
We have a mailbox in Cerritos, but the work is all outside, anywhere from the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to the waterways of the Sacramento Delta.
California is an expensive place to establish an LLC, but the people here are nicely attuned to the natural wonders that surround us. There is also an evolved awareness of environmental stewardship and spiritual exploration, all things that relate beautifully to the work of Dust and Tribe.
- Participation in our virtual Campfire community is free and open to all.
- We have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by postponing all outdoor adventures until 2021
- Most of our excursions run three days and range in price from $300-500
- Address: Dust and Tribe
11331 183rd St. #325
Cerritos, CA 90703
- Website: https://dustandtribe.com/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org