Two lectures in 6 hours. Eugene, Oregon. University of Oregon, the “O” U. But first, I had to run into the store with the “O” and get my granddaughter Oona a size 3 cheerleading outfit with an “O” on the front. Oh, yes.
The university is beautiful. Brick buildings that have an East Coast flavor, except that the trees are so large and healthy, and there is the gorgeous green of Oregon everywhere. Rick Colby, Professor of Religion, teaches a large class on the Abrahamic Religions and this small class called “Women Sufis” – which he told me he really enjoys. He had invited me for tea the day before, and I was happy to be talking with this man who knew so much about Prophet Muhammad’s world and Sufism.
I was to address the small class. It was a pleasure after the short bookstore talks. There was time to stretch out; discuss Khadija, Zaynab and the story of the time in 629 Prophet Muhammad withdrew from all his wives (nine probably), for twenty-nine days. I reported that this had a spiritual result, and that after the dust settled, the wives became known as the “Mothers of Islam.”
I showed pictures of Sufi Women Teachers, like Asha Greer of the Ruhaniat, and Daisy Khan, a Sufi women who heads two Muslim organizations in the USA with the aim of bringing awareness to the positive side of the activities and accomplishments of Muslim Women.
I asked the students to tell me why they were there. After class, Rick took me to lunch at a Thai Restaurant lunch, then we met Clif Trolin, who whisked me off to Lane Community College for the afternoon lecture.
Clif is the reason I was invited to Eugene. He came to a bookstore reading I did in Santa Fe in August and said he’d like me to come to Lane. I was skeptical. I had been trying to find higher education venues that wanted to know about what was Untold, or overlooked about early Islam, but there had been little interest. So here was Clif – a philosophy teacher who teaches religions of the Middle East – taking up the challenge and making it happen. What a delight! Lane is impressive, modern, bustling with great activity. He asked Rick Colby to include me in his teaching program.
Clif took me to Sarah Washburn’s class on The History of Islam, where I was to talk about “History’s Omissions, ” an opportunity to discuss Untold. So I touched on matriarchy at the time just before Islam, the question of the number of wives of Muhammad, and the legal rights he facilitated. Here Instructor Sarah Washburn filled us in about when legal rights came to Europe. Much later. That showed just how advanced early Islam was in championing opportunities for the disenfranchised, as well as for women! I read from Untold, and brought out the visuals after the hour break. The class was almost two hours long! There were some good questions after.
Zarifah Spain, a friend from many years ago, was hosting me at her house in Eugene. She had attended both talks with me and was driving me back to her place when I looked down at my hands and noticed my ring was missing. The restroom under the stairs at Lane. So we drove back. It wasn’t there. I scribbled a description on the back of a business card and placed it on the sink, where I had left the ring 5 hours before. The missing ring. This happened to be the Mariam Stone that my son Solomon’s Godfather, Todd, had found – along the Silk Route in 1976, had made into a ring and given to Joe Miller, my Spiritual Godfather.
At Solomon’s Bris Ceremony, when he was a week old, Joe gave it to me and said: “This is for Solomon.” I tried to give it to him as he reached his twenties, then thirties, but he said, “You Keep it, Mom.” After Solomon died on January 31 of this year, I started to wear it, and even talked about it at the memorial. The stone came from the formation of the Himalayas, an alchemist’s stone which allows the wearer to “keep cool under pressure and allows him to transform grave, even hopeless situations into creative and positive ones!” Now it was gone. I tried to release it, holding a thread of hope that it would return to me, but felt it was really gone and wished the finder well.
The next morning I phoned the college. Nothing. Then as I got ready to step out the door to go to the airport, and home – I got the call. A woman named Loretta at The Issue Window at Lane had seen my card on the sink and thought someone had given the ring in at her window. Yes, she had it!
Haqiqa, who had offered me the ride, said she might just be able to make it to Lane and back before my plane took off, but it would be close. She dropped me at the airport ……and showed up with the ring just as my plane was boarding. A security guard – I had made friends with – identified Haqiqaa and rushed the piece through security, (which happened to be next to the gate) as the last passengers showed their tickets and headed for the Alaska prop-plane.
PS, This from Haqiqa today – When I arrived at the airport it was 12:47 so I thought I had missed the connection. I almost went to the post office instead. Surely a 1:10 flight had boarded already! But I parked in front of the sliding doors at Alaska Airlines, in plain view of a policeman sitting in his car a few car lengths behind me. A large sign in front of me said, No Stopping No Waiting – If You Leave Your Vehicle, You will be Cited and Towed. I jumped out of the car and ran toward the door. The sliding doors opened sooner than expected, to reveal a security officer walking toward me. He said, “You have a ring for a passenger?” and smiled, holding out his hand.
Joyful surprise! “Yes!” I gave it to him, “I’m on my way to give it to her.” I thanked him and he turned and sprinted toward Security.
“Take me with you, Mom…into your life, into what you do.” This message seemed to be from Solomon, something I wrote down the week after his death, There I was, sitting on the plane with the brown fossil set in silver on my finger again, gazing in disbelief. Gratitude, I kept thinking, all the way home through tears. Gratitude.