I was seventeen; what did I know? In my own mind, very very little. And yet, astonishing things happened that still echo across forty years. We compare notes, my old friends and I, just recently re-connected after decades of life and distance.

I’m fascinated by the fragments of us that have shown up on the virtual conversation table. Me, worldly and seductive. He, doe-eyed and innocent, she a refugee, bright, determined and funny – a natural connector of humans. They, emerging into manhood and complexity. The other he, a philosopher who of course later traveled to India. I, emerged but invisible to myself. She, we, in search of something – family?

Barton Street Public Art, across from the MacDonald’s. My walk to work this morning.

The conversation began on the very last weekend of permitted gatherings last year and has grown throughout the pandemic. I share things with them I wouldn’t share otherwise, they are as direct and unadorned with me. We check in with each other when isolation, when the forced interiority of life feels heavy.

I find a note written by a fourth who was there with us too and we find him in Japan, living by the sea. I send a photo of the note and he writes back, just as direct and unadorned as we. Profoundly moved, to meet with his younger self, unexpectedly, and to like that self, across 40 years. There he was, beautiful in that little note that said, Thank You, Keira.

NE Hamilton, from the path half way up the escarpment

Turns out I did know some things, and I was not invisible then, no matter how I may have tried to bury the memories in my own inadequacies and innumerable failures. Quite a swamp of those, I had. My pals knew a great deal, and were far more present than I, but I remember enough to ask questions – why did we have baby chickens in the apartment, C?

We hand these things across the ongoing conversation to one another like little wrapped things, and a bridge, a balance, a warm sense of self-regard is renewed, restored. Quite a gift.

The tor at the east end of the escarpment cliffs, Hamilton

I like this weird world were in, where 40 years can disappear then reappear in packages kept safe by friends across time. I like the direct and unadorned attention my friends and I have paid to this conversation in, and perhaps because of our global pandemic.

When we can all travel again, she will go to Korea (has been learning the language) and stop in Japan to see him. I will go to Skara Brae, then the Cairngorms via Findhorn, and continue my ancestral archaeologies there. He will build even more sensible, sustainable, humble castles that make sense in these times of Climate Change and the most recently emerged he will drink his morning coffee by the sea, feeling threaded back into the strong warm fabric that we are, and always have been.

The lovely, timeless Bohemia of Laurel Street.

4 coffee cups from the set made in Bohemia in 1940, by JS Maier Co.