It’s 8 p.m. You’re in your kitchen and the dog starts barking. You hear the entire blue evening light up with rolling howls. It goes on. They stop and start, they respond to each other. They vary in volume, for a full minute. Then it tapers off and everything returns to normal.
As I’m sure you feel, too, the chance to open up and howl, or just hear our distant neighbors bark, brings a sense of unity in this uncertain, fearful time. (This is coming from someone who starts each day with a stretching bird shriek.) It’s so human, mixing a sense of loneliness with a connection of community that brightens each night.
The COVID-19 Howl has made it to the East coast, as confirmed by one of our writer’s brother-in-laws in South Carolina. And, according to some reports, it has even reached as far as Switzerland, Ireland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and even in Australia.
What started as a Facebook group called “Go Outside and Howl at 8pm” launched around March 27 by Shelsea Ochoa and Brice Maiurro, a Denver couple, has grown to include 556,224 members and growing.
Shelsea, a performance artist and Brice, a poet, never intended for the group — or the howl — to grow as quickly as it did. They initially started it just for fun, for their friends. However, the fact that hundreds of thousands of people align with it shows that people have a need to connect, and while online connection provides one way for us to stay in touch and out of total isolation, we crave a more innate way to connect with others.
About two-thirds of those who responded to our Instagram poll, say they howl. One of these howlers is Lori Preston, director of the Museum of Boulder, whose brother, Ryan Vickery, works as an emergency room nurse at a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. His wife is a nurse manager at another Kansas City hospital.
“My brother works in a ‘dirty’ hospital in KC,” said Lori. “I called him and let him hear the howls of the Coloradans — it brought him to tears.”
The howl happens followed by multiple howls of echoing dogs in Lori’s neighborhood.
Shelsea and Brice originally got the idea after witnessing people in Brazil cheering atop a sand dune at sunset before performing on the beach, and Brice also experienced a similar move among people stemming from a poetry reading in a Boulder alleyway that eventually led to howling every full moon.
The howl provides an animalistic freedom of expression for us to connect in sound with those we can’t see. It’s like a nod — even though we can’t see you, we know you’re out there. We feel you. We’re all in this together.
It must be something in our roots — the sound of our voice, our feet in the ground, the drums in our hips, that connection to the Earth and to each other — that pulses through us all. We don’t know how long the howl will last, but for now, there’s no denying it brings people together.
Header Image: April 7’s pink super moon, photographed by Bruce Henderson. Source: facebook.com/boulder.colorado.