The sound is both eerie and ecstatic. It starts as a distant thing, like a siren or a car horn. Then someone nearby joins in. Now a boat blasts its horn. And because they are copycats, the neighborhood dogs add their own note to the cacophony.

It’s the new nightly howl over the Midcoast and it says a lot about our collective claustrophobia, our mammalian beginnings and our need to connect with other human beings when we are forced apart.

Perhaps you heard it. At precisely 8 p.m., some are throwing open their windows and howling at the rising moon. These people aren’t werewolves. They are just a little stir crazy. And they want to let the world know they are there.

It’s impossible to say, exactly, where this has come from, but versions of it have shown up around the world in the weeks since coronavirus upended everything. In Italy, they sing opera. In New York City, residents have banged on pots and pans at the designated hour as a show of gratitude for health care workers.

The howling might have come from a Facebook group — Go Outside and Howl at 8 p.m. — that at this writing has more than 500,000 members.

The internet tells us that wolves howl to communicate with others in the pack and to ward off intruders. Humans howl in an effort to be part of a pack too, though the communication may be even more visceral. This howl is an antidote to the isolation brought by what has now been more than a month of forced separation from others in our species. Before we had handshakes and hugs. Now we howl.

Most of us are starting to ask what comes next. At some point, probably in a gradual way, life in the United States will find a new normal. People will return to work or look for new jobs in earnest. We’ll go to restaurants and theaters and parks. And 8 p.m. will come more quietly on the coast. Howling will be one more thing people remember when they speak of the terrible spring of 2020.

It is nice to think we will retain some of our new habits. That people will continue to call on neighbors they didn’t know they had. That food banks and shelters will have new volunteers. That families will gather for meals without the television blaring in the background.

Maybe we should continue to howl. There is much to be said for being part of a pack.

— Clay Lambert

Recommended for you

Load comments