the marin howl
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area; specifically Marin County. Though it’s but a quick drive north on the Golden Gate Bridge and the city, it can often feel like a different planet– one covered in woods, meandering hills, and aging retired rock stars. It’s also chock full of wildlife and most nights you can watch and listen to the chorus of raccoons, deer, and coyotes paying tribute to the night. (I know this because I’m usually the lady out on my deck, charging all my crystal friends!)
But during quarantine, a different kind of wild rumpus has erupted: The 8pm Marin Howl.
The Howl started (sometime last week, I think? Funny how the days are really starting to run together…) in Mill Valley as a way to collectively honor the frontline health workers who are tirelessly risking their life and sanity to protect all of us during this pandemic. A group of quirky people, separated by space and the legal requirements of a statewide quarantine, calling out into the night to announce their love and respect.
Turns out that this one minute primal scream serves another purpose in addition to the beautiful virtual hug to our bravest citizens: a deep need and longing to feel connected to one another.
As news of the peculiar Mill Valley Howl spread across Marin, so has the nightly ritual itself — it now stretches to every corner of the county. In our house, we call out to each other at 7:58, like the Banks Family in Mary Poppins warning of the neighbor’s canon (sadly, Mary herself has yet to appear to take care of the kids). Everybody stops what they are doing and we go outside on the deck. When 8pm drops, we wait for the first welcoming sounds of our neighbors and then we, too, unleash our roars across the county. Some people do their best coyote impression; others scream out hellos or “we love you.” I swear I can hear people smiling.
It’s an unbelievably cathartic release. The stress of my day — trying to navigate homeschooling when I barely remember how to do long division, reading the news, trying to run a company in this new normal — physically escapes with each howl. Hearing those other thousands of people doing the same weird thing under the same moon and sky … it’s a powerful reminder that while I can’t see or touch any of them right now, we really are in this together.
I have seen the videos of similar traditions emerging in different cities: a nightly round of applause, a spontaneous jam session among neighbors who probably never even met before all this nonsense. I love all of it.
I hope that everybody out there is finding their own way to release and also feel connected to their fellow humans. A nightly ritual to get it all out and also remember that physical isolation doesn’t always have to mean feeling emotionally isolated, and that as with most challenges we are stronger together than apart.