Owooooo, owooooo, owooooo ...
That coyote howl is how Grammy-Award winning musicians Riders in the Sky opened their cowboy-themed radio show each week.
I immediately thought about seeing them in concert after my sister, Cindy, mentioned listening to a group called "The Howlers" recently. She's in balmy Texas right now to escape the harsh Iowa winter.
During their performance, The Howlers' band members unleashed a few well-placed howls at the height of some especially rowdy songs. They encouraged their audience to join them.
Cindy says it was a great way for fans to show their appreciation of the music -- and to release any frustrations they might have bottled up inside. It was also cathartic to do this in a crowd where everyone quickly became devotees of howling as a rewarding group exercise. The audience began calling themselves "howlers-in-training" until they could perfect the process.
I can vouch for how exhilarating a heart-felt howl can be -- especially in expelling any negative energy polluting your body.
Or just for the thrill of it.
One summer night when our kids were young, we went outside to admire the full moon. For some reason, I started howling, and the kids joined in. Our next door neighbor's kitchen window was close to the porch where we were harmonizing -- loudly, I might add. She peeked out the window to see what was going on and to determine whether to call 911.
Seeing what fun we were having, she joined in with her own coyote/wolf imitation.
You see, not all howls sound the same. A wolf's howl is lower-pitched and more drawn out. It can include growls and barks. A coyote howl is shorter, and more high-pitched, with barks, yips and yaps possible.
The vocalization for both beasts depends on what message they're sending.
A November 2018 "Psychology Today" article indicates that howls can differ in "frequency, energy and amplitude," according to whether they're meant to be a friendly way to communicate with their own pack, or a warning to another pack that's intruding on their territory.
Love songs have been written about Howling --including Hank Williams' "Howlin' at the Moon" and Muddy Waters' "I'm A Howlin.'"
Apparently howling has become a community-wide endeavor in places like Wellfleet, Mass. It started after the pandemic hit as a way for residents to show their support for essential workers, and to relieve their own cabin fever.
It became a regular thing.
According to the Provincetown Independent newspaper, participants open their windows, or step outside, to make some communal noise at sunset, whether it's "howling, singing, clapping or banging on pots." This serves as a way for residents to feel less isolated. More connected. To socially bond, even while apart.
In the 1970s, psychologist Arthur Janov published the book, "The Primal Scream." It was based on his treatment of patients who had mentally blocked their childhood traumas. The therapy required patients to recall the experience, re-enact it and express their repressed anger through unrestrained screaming. All this was supervised by a trained professional. While wildly popular, there was no definitive proof that primal therapy actually worked.
The Chinese have long practiced ways to exercise their lungs and keep their energy flowing through various martial arts forms. One starts in a standing position. Then you swoop down to touch the floor before straightening back up, reaching for the sky and swaying like a tree in the wind.
There's a whooping scream you release as you do this. Sort of like a battle cry. A quick yell. Or a grunt.
Either one works.
It's no different than a tennis player's grunts when they whack the ball to return it across the net with the most extreme force possible.
It's recommended by other sources that if you're going to scream, you should stand in a warrior pose and scream in small one-second bursts. You don't have to wreck your vocal chords by being super loud. Or become hoarse like after yelling at a sporting event. Make it more guttural, from the diaphragm, instead of straight from the throat.
Another way to vent that pent-up pandemic energy is to cry, or punch a safe object like a pillow. Something that doesn't punch back or leave a mark.
If you need to go outside to release that emotional energy, just alert the neighbors so they don't stress out about it.
Or at least they'll know what's causing their dogs to bark.
However, this may be a temporary catharsis. You might still need to process other aspects of your life that are upsetting you.
But, it's a start.
Better than keeping those unresolved issues suppressed.
There's no need to wait for a full moon. Go ahead. Start something in your own neighborhood. Release your true wolf or coyote. See what a difference it makes in your own mental health.