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Rather than ramble on about how amazing the trip was i’ll let the video do justice in a way my words wouldn’t…

 

video of my trip

Pebble Theory

Pebble theory is my reason for writing this blog. It is the reason I opened a word press account at all. I would go as far as to say it is my reason for living and guides me in everything I do. If I never write another thing I will happy if I can articulate Pebble Theory in a way that can help other people in the way it has helped me.

Pebble Thoery arose out of an extremely formative experience I had when I was about 25. Prior to that experience, which I will elaborate on presently, I had spent many years dwelling on Love and aspiring to an ideal I called Love in Truth, a notion that I will no doubt post on in time. This time spent searching for real love and questioning how society constructed love laid the foundations for Pebble Theory however without the experience that follows I am not sure if I could have arrived at Pebble Theory.

The story starts somewhere in Europe. It might have been on a ferry between Greek Islands, a busy Cafe in Florence or some other destination my girlfriend and I took in immediately following the completion of my undergraduate degree in Aberdeen, Scotland. Romatically, for reasons that will become clear, I’d like to think it was on a hidden Pebble beach on Elba, the relevance of which I would have been quite unaware of at the time.

Where ever it might have been I was dreaming of the perfect proposal.

I had only been seeing my girlfriend for a few months but I was deeply in love. It wasn’t just love but a really pure love that both parties had committed to almost recklessly; no hidden sanctuaries one could retreat to when the intensity of our love became too much for out tender years. We both loved adventure and had spent our first intoxicating weeks discussing a lifetime of shared travels. Europe was our first leg, soon to be followed by Canada (where my girlfriend lived), America, South Korea, Thailand, India Nepal, Africa…

Our trip to Europe came and went, as did wonderful adventures in Canada, America, South Korea and Thailand. The two years of adventure had given me plenty of time to crystallise my plans for the perfect proposal. Our next adventure would be taking us to Nepal, a country we had spoken of often. During the trip we would complete a trek around the Annapurna which would take us over several high altitude passes. On the highest of these passes I would take out a ring which I would have obtained in India during the first leg of this journey, got down on one knee and said, “‘Pam’, our love has taken us so high. I think we can go higher still and soar far above the hills around us. Will you marry me.” This was great, but I wanted more for her. So I asked her dad to accompany us on part of the trip. This would allow me to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage and allow her to celebrate when we (physically) came down from the pass.

‘Jack’ met us in India and joined us on a trip into the Thar desert. At a dusty bus station as we waited for a connection that would take us to Nepal a moment alone with Jack allowed me to seek and gain his blessing “Callum, you’ll be a fine addition to the family” I knew gaining Jack’s blessing was a formality as we got on well. We enjoyed a mock ‘Meet the parents’ relationship and although he would make jokes consistent with his DeNiro role I got the impression he valued the strength of feeling I had for his daughter as well as my work ethic and reverence for the family unit.

Almost everything was going to plan.

Pam and I had enjoyed a good start to our trip around India. Dehli-Jaipur-Udaipur (beautiful ring-check), Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner. The only real difficulty I had faced was extreme back ache. Years of lugging around huge backpacks has really taken it’s toll- compounded by a recent trip to Vail in which I spend the majority of time picking myself up of the hard-packed snow as I developed my skill as a snowboarder. I had visited a Chiropractor before leaving Canada and was taking a number of pills, however they did little to provide respite from the pain. I was constantly uncomfortable, sometime excruciatingly so. Walking, sitting, sleeping, and all stages in between were difficult and the pain was always on my mind. While I like to think of myself as an adventurer I was aware that the Annapurna trip coming up would be a significant undertaking for even a fit trekker, never mind someone who found sitting down to drink a masala chai a challenge. It was with much regret that I broached the option of me missing the trek with Pam- “But we’ll have porters to carry our stuff.”, “We’ll take it easy” etc. Pam’s encouragement and the thought of my dream disappearing only weeks from the trip made my mind up. I was going even if I had to crawl up the hill.

After spending several touristy days in Kathmandu we flew to Pokhara where we begun the trip. The guide was great although was quite a tough task master. I was keen to take side trips to waterfalls or through forests however he was keen we got to the next tea house by the defined path.  After a particularly hard walk up Poon Hill, and a sleepless night, my back was giving me much grief. Shortly after leaving the tea house that morning I decided that I had to lighten my day pack and asked the porter if he would carry one of my water bottles. Suddenly I was given a hard time by Pam who felt I was treating the porters unfairly. I was quite shocked for a number of reasons, not least that she herself had urged me to make use if the porters rather than miss the trip. Furthermore those around would say I am polite to a fault and that someone so close to me would suggest otherwise was pretty hurtful. I was also quite embarrassed to be given a dressing down in front of her dad who only a week previously had given my his blessing and know of my plans for the trip.

As the day wore on Pam and I fell out a few more times. Things weren’t going well at all. I suggested to Pam that she and her dad walk together and enjoy the trip and I would walk ahead. This was fine until her dad caught me up further up the path.

“Callum if I was Pam and you asked me to marry you I’d tell you where to go!”

The dream was quickly becoming a nightmare. “Jack you only see a fraction of what goes on in our relationship”

“I’ve seen enough” and with that he stormed off.

Soon after Pam caught me up, in tears. I told her not to worry and that I would sort everything out over lunch which we would be having at a teahouse less than 30 minutes away. Consoled, we walked together and joined Jack for lunch. Having practiced my lines I boldly started , “Jack, I love Pam and I…” “Talk is cheap” Jack cut me off mid-sentence. My actions since dating his daughter were beyond reproach. My commitment and signs of love were acknowledged (and envied) by all who knew me.

“Listen Jack, there are plenty of things I could say about your relationship with Dina but I don’t.” Had I actually said that. No, surely not. A look of shock on Pam’s face and an exclaimed “Callum!” confirmed I had actually uttered the second most reckless sentence of my life. The first most reckless sentence follwed quickly in my reply to Pam, “I don’t what your talking about, you’ve said exactly the same thing.” Jack informed me that he didn’t much care for my opinion and that brought ont only the end to lunch but also to my most cherished dream.

The trek continued under a cloud. We made the high pass and then made our trip back Kathmandu. Lying in bed in a hotel we agreed what we both knew, that the relationship was over. I was heartbroken. Of course I had dreams dashed before; playing for Rangers, walking on the moon, but never one that I had come so close to, one that I had never contemplated not coming true.

We were only part way through the trip. We still had the idyllic Honeymoon destination of Mauritius to enjoy, then a trip round Africa where we would hand-select the diamond to add to her ring. The ring that lay in my jacket pocket at the end of the bed. Then there was everything else, the only future I had ever imagined.

Pam and I had broken up once before, in Budapest. I was concerned that when she returned to Canada and was surrounded by handsome, wealthy, rugged Canadian Allstars and that I couldn’t compare. Pam agreed that this could happen and so we ended it. I provided a ‘courtesy Callum’ for the rest of the day. After a talk with her mum and dad we decided to make a go of it. I was keen to provide the same service this time and help her to make the most of the rest of her trip, even though I knew this time that the outcome would not change. The weeks remaining before our trip to Mauritius were awful. I tried to be there for Pam in every way I could; cuddling her when she needed a hug, talking to her when she wanted to talk and absorbing her anger when she needed to vent. It became an impossible task and on the way down from Kanchenjunga I snapped and told her that she was being terribly unfair and that I couldn’t sustain her mood swings for the next two months. Pam decided not to come to Mauritius and South Africa and instead returned to Canada with her brother.

Fast forward to a stunning Pebble Beach in Mauritius and I am sitting there looking out to sea watching the sun come down. It was incredibly beautiful and not even the desperate loneliness, intensified when juxtaposed to the recently married lovers that made my unwitting companions, could detract from it.

I longed to be a Pebble on the beach lying next to my soul mate looking out to sea for eternity. I longed to have the sea wash over us and for us to be there, together. As I stared longingly at the Pebbles I wished for things to have been different in so many ways, I wanted to be different in so many ways. To have come so close to achieving the perfect dream and have it crushed in such an agonising way is a punishment I would not wish on anyone. However the more I looked at the pebbles on the beach the more uneasy I felt with the picturesque scene. I noticed firstly that all the stones were pretty similar, different in size and colour but more or less smooth and round. The roundness was of particular concern because when I examined how the pebbles lay atop one another it was clear that only the tiniest fraction of each pebble touched it’s partner. Superficially it was perfect and anyone who gave the scene a cursory glance would be convinced it encapsulated nature’s beauty. It just didn’t seem right to me.

Each of the Peebles on the beach started of gnarled, full of rough edges and deep cracks. It would not be selected as a thing of beauty by society. Under the water it would meet other similarly disfigured rocks and they would bash against each other, gradually knocking off those parts that didn’t ‘fit’. This would continue over many years until all those parts that had initially made the pebble unique were gone and it had come to rest on another smooth pebble, where it would remain.

I was deeply saddened by this. In an instant I saw how our relationships and our society erode who we are so that we can conform. To everyone it appears beautiful. The smooth pebbles don’t know any different; all they have to compare themselves to are the other smooth pebbles that lie listlessly beside them. On the rare occasions they are confronted by a rough edged rock they despair that it has ruined their community and work together to shape the newcomer into something that does not stand out.

Ony two minutes previously I was longing for this to happen to me, I would have given anything to have lost whatever edges that did not fit.

I was then provided with the most marvellous insight that has guided me on a steadfast course ever since.

All the pebbles on the beach were once attached to another pebble and formed a larger rock. Through some process, often quite natural, the rock is split and smaller rocks form. But how closely those two rocks would fit if they were brought together. There could be no closer fit, even by design. The gnarled parts of me, despised by the society around me, would fit perfectly with my companion. The parts of me that needed support would be supported by her and vice-versa. What an exhilarating thought, which still brings a tingle to my spine 5 years hence.

I am unusual. I don’t fit in. I don’t like to engagemost people in conversation because they don’t talk about things that interest me and their topics of conversation, I believe, are generally designed to erode. Attractiveness, celebrity, wealth, accolade, accomplishment are so far away from what I want to indulge in.

To begin with I was sad to see people end up as smooth pebbles on the beach, giving an outward appearance of happiness, contentment and beauty but inside knowing it wasn’t quite right. Now I see it as functional. Society wouldn’t work if it was full of people like me. I am happy for people to hold me in disdain, I wish them luck in life.  The beauty of erosion is that the smooth pebbles can’t really recall what they’ve lost and if they can they are content to have lost it in their pursuit of smoothness. No matter what happens now I refuse to lose any more of me to fit in. I can only hope that my other half has remained true to herself in the face of an unrelenting tide of ill-fitting pebbles and kept enough of her unique features that we can still recognise each other. If not I am happy to remain an outcast and have society turn itself into sand trying to change me.

I am pitted and gnarled and rough and so beautiful.