Mementos

On the floor of my room, nestled among the scraps and stacks of my gear becoming to South America, lies a little stone. Red-and-tan striped, flawlessly polished, and about the size of a conker: this is a red tiger’s eye. It was given to me recently by a friend, to take with me on my travels.
Tiger’s eye*: the name is charismatic, and the description doubly so. The little pebble shines like a spool of silk. Gemstone sites tell me that it ‘stimulates taking action’, gives me ‘courage, self-confidence and strength of will’, and aids ‘kundalini awakening’ (here) – good news! Unlike me, my kundalini will no longer be grumpy and bleary-eyed in the morning. The website goes on to say that my possession of the stone will afford me protection against curses, rise up to the challenge of a rival, etc. The alternative, less esoteric description given by my friend was that it would be a charm for ‘brave and adventurous travel’, which is definitely what I need.
Memories in indelible ink.
What’s the purpose of taking a rock to the Andes? It seems like taking whisky to a Scotsman’s house, or hauling the proverbial coals to Newcastle. It’s actually a mixture of sentimentalism and superstition that means I’m choosing to have the rock take up a tiny bit of space in my backpack.
I’m a scientist and a skeptic. I’m not superstitious – just ask my shaman! – But the thought of leaving the objects in the picture above at home sends a slight shiver down my spine. Imagining the stone nestled in my room among the wreckage of the items I jettisoned, the list of kit that didn’t fit, makes me sweat a little (thank god I packed my wicking T-shirt). I know it’s not practical, but it is personal.
Mementos – little objects to remember loved ones, or a greeting from a minty candy? If the former, there’s a multitude of thoughts I have when I wear the pendant, or hold that little stone in my hand, that make them markedly more valuable than something practical of a similar size, for instance a book of matches.
That stone represents friendship. Gratitude and generosity. A message when I weigh it in my palm: be confident and adventurous in your travels.

The pendant – freedom. Curiosity. The sense of independence and interconnectedness that are gained, paradoxically together, through travel. (Side note – I bought the pendant on a whim in a Thai marketplace. I imagine that it’s very likely that I’ll acquire future mementos in a similar way.)
Letters – love. Future hopes and expectations, and present happiness. A testament to creativity.
Maybe I don’t believe in superstition. I certainly don’t believe that these items will bring me luck, or adventurous travels, by their presence alone. What they actually are is a reminder of the people whom I’ll be missing when I’m out there. I mentioned last post that I’m actually a sporadic communicator. If I carry a piece of my loved ones with me, I’ll be reminded to keep in contact – and to share all the bad and good luck that will inevitably befall me. And if a little pebble inspires me to do that – then hey, I’m happy to say that I believe in lucky charms.

*For any other rock doctors reading, Wikipedia tells me that tiger’s eye is a member of the quartz group, with the stripes created by pseudomorphic replacement of crocidolite by quartz, giving a chatoyancy or ‘cat’s eye’ effect (here). It’s a 5.5 – 6 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, meaning that it would take on other rocks in a fight and win. So there you go.

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