The Best Advice So Far - peepers - woodland wetlands in moonlight

Snow fell well into spring this year. So whenever a day’s temperate now peaks 50°, there’s a palpable buzz in the air that feels more like summer. As far as the eye can see, sidewalks teem with bikers and joggers, dog walkers and pullers of little red wagons.

By the time essential work wound down this past Friday, I found myself facing a laundry list of domestic tasks that “needed” my attention, not the least of which was, in fact, laundry. But heeding my own advice to prioritize time for stillness, and with the extended hours of daylight beckoning, I made the choice to head out to the park for an evening stroll.

It was the right choice.

As sunset gave way to twilight, I heard them.

The peepers.

At first, they were timid, tentative, sporadic. But the first bold few lent their courage to more, until the entire perimeter of marshy woodlands was alive with their cadence.

I wondered how many others in the park around me even noticed. Or, I should say, took notice. There’s a difference—a choice that draws us beyond vague awareness to intentional appreciation and further exploration.

Well, speaking of “further exploration,” I mentioned back in January that my theme for 2018 would be to further explore ideas I’d already covered in my book The Best Advice So Far from a different angle. Here’s one of the shortest pieces of advice in the book:

Do something new every day.

My friend Chad was the very first person I blogged about back in 2011. He now owns his own (fun and uniquely people-centered) company, called We!. And he’s got his own spin on that advice. Whether he’s speaking at a camp, college or corporate conference, Chad’s famous for putting it this way:

Follow your natural curiosity.

It’s even shorter than mine—just four words—but it’s so packed with potential life change that I dare say it’s the cornerstone concept every single time Chad speaks or facilitates.

Join me back at the park, surrounded by those peepers.

I stopped. I noticed. I took notice.

As a child exploring the acres of dense woods and wetlands behind my grandparents’ house, I’d seen the peepers up close and personal many times. Hundreds upon hundreds of them lining the marshy edges of some little swamp—popping up like corn kernels in hot oil.

But I realized that night in the park that, while I’ve heard peepers each year and cherished their songs until the very last of them quiets in the fall, I’d not ventured out to where they were in three-and-a-half decades or more.

And so, follow my natural curiosity I did.

The Best Advice So Far: Follow your natural curiosity.

I veered from the packed-dirt path and off into the trees, down a hill, crunching through a mat of dead leaves and twigs only recently released from the last of winter’s snow. Bits of green poked through—a wayward crocus here, a fiddlehead fern there—just visible in the last waning light of dusk.

A mere two yards in and—all at once, the entire amphitheater of peepers went silent. Not a single one broke ranks.

They were onto me.

I stood a few moments more, entranced by the silence, the knowledge that a thousand tiny beings were acknowledging my presence, as if holding their breath to see what I would do.

But I decided that the show must go on.

I went back the way I’d come. And within five seconds, the unseen conductor had picked up his baton and the music commenced.

Night fell.

Walking back to the car required crossing a strip of the pathway with marshlands on either side. As I made my way across, the chorus swelled, the crescendo in preparation for the close of tonight’s performance.

I just couldn’t help myself. Again, I followed my natural curiosity.

Ever so quietly, I edged off the beaten path once more. Over the softness of spring’s first grass. Slowly, slowly, I tiptoed my way over to a small wooden half-bridge that jutted out over water only visible as points of light reflected from the glimmering stars overhead.

And suddenly, I was backstage.

No. I was in the orchestra pit.

The sound was overwhelming. Almost deafening. I could feel it vibrating along my skin.

(Below is an actual recording I made on that bridge. TIP: Listen with headphones and you’ll get a better sense of what I experienced that night.)

I could have stayed home and tended to the never-ending list of chores and work. But I chose to follow the sunlight to the park.

I could have walked the park a while and headed home. And that would have been enjoyable. But I chose to follow the sound of the peepers.

I could have been contented that I’d tried once and “failed,” greeted by the silent treatment. And I’d still have been glad for the adventure.

But I chose to follow my natural curiosity where it led.

And it led to a magical moment.

Slow down.

Leave time for stillness.

Do something new today.

Follow your natural curiosity.

Where might it lead you?

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