Holy howling!

Greetings, Hopeful friends,
I’ve been thinking… dangerous I realize, but let’s risk it. What I’ve been thinking about – in this “quiet time” is – being quiet. I am an advocate of being quiet in order to pay attention to what’s going on inside of oneself. I don’t claim to do it well, but I realize I have always been drawn into quiet places, and I’ve come to appreciate its value as an intentional practice.

To sit still or walk, ride bike or even drive without noise, music, or voices plugged into my ears and piped into my head, being quiet and, as thoughts like rabbits race through my mind daring me to chase, simply watching them dash past without chasing, is a good practice. It’s a spiritual discipline that benefits my whole being, and improves my behavior, which needs improvement! So, cultivating quiet awareness is good. Still, every coin has two sides, and being noisy can be good too.

Just over a year ago we adopted a rescued dog named Otis. And I have discovered he has a fine singing voice. With a little nudging now, having been working on it since he joined us, Otis will hold forth with intensity and energy. So, at least once a day Otis and I sing together – howl together. Well, we did, before Covid-19 time arrived.

Now, being at home almost full time, I spend a good part of that time in quiet, but find that quiet needs some counter-balance. So, I go looking for my singing partner several times a day. He is almost always ready to join me in loud, improvisational vocalizing… Aroooooo!!!!

Realizing that telling others about our musical collaboration was not getting the job done, I recently captured a brief session on my phone. Let’s see if you can hear it… (I’m holding up my phone, playing the video featuring Otis with a supporting voice in the background…you may need to watch the video version on the church Facebook page.) He has a bit of loon call going on. I’m not sure where he picked that up since he’s from Kentucky originally and there aren’t many loons there. Okay, you go ahead. I better not go there.

Imagine my delight when I heard a story one evening about a group of neighbors who have organized an evening howling hour. It’s much shorter than an hour, but at 8:00 in the evening these people assemble on their respective decks and balconies and patios and – howl! Together…at a distance.

It was fun to hear them, and to hear them talk about the different moods expressed, from raucous joy to somber longing to broken sadness. “Wolves howl to stay connected,” one person said. “And that’s what we’re doing.”

Besides, sometimes you just need to make noise, with structured discipline and control as in a musical piece or performance, or boisterously and wildly as at a ballgame, or primally and freely as in a howling hour with your neighbors, or your dog, or both!

I have not yet invited the neighbors to join Otis and me in our singing sessions, but, if this Covid time continues into summer, our windows will be open and they may not be able to resist! Or they may call the police. Is howling a crime? I suppose it could be disturbing the peace. Or is it just one of those free expressions of self that we celebrate in this country? And, like attentive silence and a good laugh, a good howl is also, I think, good for the soul.

One final thought: on that day when they were all gathered together in one place, and there was the sound of a great wind and the flames danced and they spoke in different languages as the Spirit enabled them – who’s to say there wasn’t some holy howling going on as well?!

Peace – and happy howling to you!
Jeff