Go ahead and give us your best primal howl

Coloradoans have found innovative ways to connect, stay busy and healthy
April 13, 2020
small boy howls at 8 p.m. in Laporte, Colorado, one way people are connecting during covid pandemic.
Laporte resident Janine Pendleton films her 3-year-old son, Noah, during a night of howling. Courtesy of Janine Pendleton.

At 8 p.m. each evening from the front porches of Colorado, you can hear “packs” of people howling in solidarity during this unprecedented time.

For many people, including Elizabeth Davis, of Laporte in northern Colorado, howling is comforting.

“Howling every night is the only consistent thing in my life right now — something to look forward to. I love hearing all my Laporte neighbors getting louder each night — coming together while staying apart.”

One neighbor, Janie Pendleton, has given much thought to howling, an unorthodox affirmation that we’re all in this together.

“I make sure I’m barefoot when I go out to howl,” she said. “I need to find that primal confidence, to ground myself, to make sure I’m not swept up in the spiraling fear and to know that we are not alone in the solitude.”

Howling isn’t all that Colorado has turned to as a way of connecting during physical distancing and stay-at-home orders. Arapahoe County Sheriff employee Josh Kraus turned to bagpipes. Others are finding inventive ways to keep themselves entertained, celebrate life’s special moments and continue to stay physically and mentally healthy.

Celebrating life’s special moments

man holds candies while daughter holds happy birthday sign outside his window, as she can't come in because of the covid pandemic.
Jill wishes her father, Don, happy 84th birthday with his favorite candies and a sign outside his window. Photo courtesy of Jill and Columbine Health Systems.

Jeana Woody, of Montrose, wasn’t going to let her husband’s 40th pass without showing him love from friends and family. She had planned for a big “Southern” party in the backyard, complete with his favorite foods and closest friends. But when that couldn’t happen, everyone rallied together (separately, of course) to celebrate his birthday by way of a one-hour surprise drive-by party.

“People hollered and hooted, made signs and threw his favorite things to him, like popcorn,” Woody said.

In Loveland, Don, a resident of Columbine Health Systems’ North Shore Health & Rehab Facility, celebrated his 84th birthday with his favorite candies and a visit outside his window from his daughter, Jill. Along with candies for her dad, she brought a cake for his caregivers.

At Columbine West Health & Rehab in Fort Collins, the usual monthly birthday party for residents is now a chicken dance celebration in the halls so that monthly birthdays can still be celebrated.

In Castle Rock, local police and firefighters put on a mini-parade to celebrate local kids’ birthdays.

Besides birthdays, creative Coloradans are figuring out how to enjoy concerts, holidays, happy hours, and playdates while remaining physically distance from one another.

For the children

School-aged children — and for that matter, adults — are entertaining themselves for hours with the funny faces and games on Facebook Messenger’s video chatting and other similar apps.

Bear hunts — teddy bears, that is — have also taken off throughout Colorado. Participants place an item outside their home — a stuffed animal, drawing or thankful saying — and add their address to a Google map. Families use the map to find the items in their neighborhood, a take on an old-fashioned scavenger hunt.

teddy bears in a front lawn with words of encouragement, one of the ways people are connecting during covid pandemic
Teddy bear hunts have popped up in different communities as a fun physical-distance activity for families. Photo courtesy Shelly Roehrs.

“This has been so much fun,” said Shelly Roehrs, of Colorado Springs, who after seeing the idea in another Colorado Springs neighborhood, decided to bring it to hers and created a larger bear hunt map. “I think it’s as much fun for the neighbors putting the items out as it is for the kids hunting them.”

Live music

People aren’t able to see live bands now, but there are no shortages of virtual events. The Colorado Sound has a list of Colorado artists performing online, but many artists around the country are doing live shows (from their homes) during this time.

Liz Janssen is a “red-dirt country” enthusiast who lives just up the road from Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, which has canceled or postponed upcoming shows. She and her partner, West Davis, have found an outlet every Friday night with Wade’s World, a live show hosted by Texas singer-songwriter Wade Bowen, who usually invites another musician to join him.

couple selfie of them watching live concert on their computer, one of the ways people are connecting during covid pandemic.
Liz and West enjoy a Friday night with Wade’s World, one of the musicians they can catch live as they follow stay-at-home order. Photo courtesy of Liz Janssen.

“I turn them on and cook dinner, or we sit outside and watch, hooked up to the Bluetooth speakers,” Janssen said. “They talk about (the coronavirus pandemic) a bit, but most of the time they just (chat), tell jokes, play music, and you just forget about it all.”

Some bands are asking for donations; others have a ticket price for their show but with proceeds going to support various organizations.

Staying active

Janssen is also taking advantage of online mental and physical opportunities. She’s doing yoga, and meditating with Emily Fletcher, who offered a discount for her online class, and free access to frontline health care workers.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Janssen said. “I meditate with her two times a day, and it’s huge.”

Others are using exercise as a way to stay social connected, such as this Denver woman, who hosts a Zumba class for her neighbors each day. Even a delivery man took a few minutes to stretch his legs and get the blood flowing.

Even while people are isolated at home, it’s still important to exercise. Adults should be getting 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75-100 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, plus strengthening with resistance training two times per week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services physical activity guidelines.

facebook embed of video of dad and daughter dancing, one way people are connecting during the covid pandemic.The good news is that any activity — walking, dancing, vacuuming the house — counts, according to those guidelines. So join in a lip sync challenge like Michael and his daughter, Ali Hoffman or, like this Parker family, educational dance video.

“When the times seem a little dark, it’s just a call to be more LIGHT!” wrote Michael and Ali on their YouTube channel. “Let your joy fly, crank the tunes and dance in the kitchen!”

Barb Ritch, 88, of Fort Collins, said she has “never had this much free time in my whole life.” All of Ritch’s exercise classes, as well as her volunteer job, have stopped, but she and a friend from her UCHealth Aspen Club walking group have decided to meet every Monday and continue with their walks.

“We go in separate cars and then stay apart — as if we are mad at each other,” she chuckled. “I can walk around my neighborhood, but I’m not as motivated. When you have someone else with you — we just keep going and going. It’s so enjoyable and is something I look forward to.”

Why we should continue connecting during COVID pandemic

Exercise and other creative outlets to social interact with others, often through virtual connection, helps support oxytocin, one of the body’s feel-good hormones that, when low, can lead to detachment, loneliness, irritability and fear, said Christina Gerteis, a licensed therapist with UCHealth Mountain Crest Behavioral Health Center.

man smiles as he looks out his window.
Don’s excitement to see his daughter, Jill, for his 84th birthday at his nursing home is evident in this photo she had to take through her dad’s window. Photo courtesy of Jill and Columbine Health Systems.

“High periods of stress can drive times of low levels of oxytocin,” she said.

“It’s really amazing the way people are finding that relief and distraction. It will all support that oxytocin going up,” she said. “But we must not forget that we not only need that emotional connection, but we also need that physical connection for balance.”

So, besides connecting with others during this COVID pandemic, try a little self-care while you’re stuck at home — here are some great home spa tips to do just that.

There is so much more

There is so much more people are doing to stay positive, show unity and support their health. Here are some great ideas we found people on social media were sharing.

  • Putting up Christmas lights to show solidarity.
  • Putting a rainbow on the front door or outside to bring cheer, a reminder of rainbows after a storm.
  • Hanging a heart in a front window to show solidarity for health care workers.
  • Promoting neighborhood library boxes.
  • Putting boxes of games and puzzles in the front yard for neighborhood kids to borrow and swap out, similar to the library box concept.
  • Leaving delivery drivers snacks and thank-you notes at the front door.

You’re doing an extraordinary job of staying home. Thank you.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.