Winds of Memory, Winds of Warm Skies | “Hello Stranger” by Barbara Lewis

Winds of Memory, Winds of Warm Skies | “Hello Stranger” by Barbara Lewis

Mike Merucci, Editorial Assistant

The sun is out again. 


During the stretch between early December and late January, I can’t say that I saw the sun for more than a minute at a time. But the clouds often looked crimson and Crown Royal purple when it would sneak below the horizon for an even greater darkness than we had before, and that held me over for a while. I also developed an appreciation for the nighttime’s oft-starless sky as a counter to the daytime: It seems that winter can somehow make light pollution comforting. 


But now the sun is out again.


As the winds of springtime begin to cut deeper and deeper into 30 degree days, I’m glad to have some warmth on my skin. With this warmth comes a song that echoes from forgotten summer nights — those nights forgotten because, in essence, not much happened. But they were warm, and that was enough for me. 


“Hello Stranger” by Michigan singer-songwriter Barbara Lewis happens to be the song reaching out from those nights, and it is working to restore those fragments lost, those dissipating faces and insignificant moments lost to the great Midwest winter. It is working to reinvigorate the connection between memory and love. 


“Hello stranger /

It seems so good to see you back again.”


Whenever the sun returns from its cloud-covered hibernation, it is easy to think about the past. Resisting those thoughts can grow to be a greater weight than thought possible. But this year, I feel differently about the past. And I feel differently about memory itself, about warm skies, about love. “Hello Stranger” is with me in this, perhaps as a guide, perhaps as a backdrop for thoughts of summer. But regardless, Lewis’ gentle, longing croons and the almost-intoxicating comfort of an organ tip-toeing in the background leave me at peace. 


When I listen to “Hello Stranger,” I think of a handheld radio that used to sit on a ping-pong table in my grandparents’ basement. I think of how I’d extend and retract its antenna over and over and over, how I’d randomly turn every knob on it to build a wall of noise anyone around me must have found unbearable, how I wish it were with me now and for the summer ahead. 

I would like to hear “Hello Stranger” on that radio, hiding somewhere behind me so that I’d only hear it as a whisper, as a faint tingling on my skin along with a summer evening’s breeze. 


I would think about love, then. And by association, memory. I’d think about love as a collection of old photos, as a pile of empty beer cans, as an old radio going unheard in a train’s blaring by. When I’ve thought about love recently, and how I hope to think about it when it’s 70 degrees outside, I’ve thought about it through memories — nothing but memories. Memories of 10 years ago, one year ago, one month ago, one week ago, one day ago. And I’ve only recently come to understand the true importance of taking and saving photographs. Mom and Dad, I’m sorry for complaining so much about photos in the past.


Perhaps this year, I’ll take more photographs than ever before. Of what, I’m not sure, but perhaps they’ll end up being nice to have. And perhaps I’ll stumble on a memory of this spring and summer somewhere down the line, memories sure to be laden with threads both somber and vibrant. I know what I’ll never forget from this year, but I’d also like to remember bright skies and verdant hills, a city’s worth of hugs, the sound of a river flowing calmly by and gentle laughter in the wind.


“How long has it been? /

Ooh, it seems like a mighty long time.”