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להישען קדימה : on learning to lean forward

A few weeks ago I taught a few kiddos the basics of whitewater kayaking. This in itself is not so strange; I signed on to helping Danielle with lessons for the Bend Kayak School, in my off hours/days, after my first meeting with her; an incredible human with a serious knack for putting people at ease, teaching the ins and outs of whitewater, & a keen eye for risk management on the water. I liked her easy going & intense spirit from the start.

It was the middle of one of the seemingly longest two-week stretches of my working life. Whilst working for my “day” job as a naturalist guide (putting “day” in quotes because it’s still surreal that I got to work full-time facilitating play & learning outside in the PNW this summer…), and teaching in my off (literally) hours, it felt like there were too few hours in the day. Kayaking & especially instructing are two very motivating reasons to jump out of bed in the morning, however, & so the joy levels were quite high despite the hectic nature of those two weeks.

And with that, I rolled up to teaching Monday stoked, but a little tired; 8:30am feels early when you don’t get home from work until 2am the night before. We meet at the put in, with gear in various piles on the grass by the sidewalk.

An 8, 11, & 15-year-old burst out of the car & with a few yawns joined me on the grass with the gear. We begin suiting up, explaining gear usage & fit along the way–and sharing in the collective struggles of donning dry tops. (If you’ve never put on a dry top/ dry suit, this is a pretty accurate account of the experience.)

Moving towards the water, we go over whitewater safety & hazards, water movement, as we gaze over the river from bridge height. Suited up, & aware of potential hazards, we head for the bank, where we practice wet exits on dry land. As we’re going over wet exits in the river, I am quelling trepidation by counting, and for the 8-yr-old, Jonathan, asking for numbers in Hebrew to count in. This also works as a diversionary tactic, as my butchered pronunciation induces rounds of giggles in between flips. We progress through the tasks & lessons for the day; a prominent set is peel outs & eddy turns. One of the most, if not THE most important aspect of (upper) body positioning whilst kayaking, is that of a forward lean, especially whilst learning. I have made it through many a hairy upright whitewater situation with a strong forward lean & a confident paddle. And so I learned the phrase: “lehisha’enn qadimah.” Lehisha’enn means to lean, & qadimah means forward.

I became hoarse from yelling lehisha’enn qadimah over & over again. In fact, whenever teaching now, it’s actually the first phrase that pops into my head whenever someone needs to lean forward a bit more, rather than the English version… funny how language works!

And after an entire day of belting LEHISHA’ENN QADIMAH across the din of rushing water, it seemed to sink in as I drove home idly smiling. Perhaps we all could use a firm reminder to lean forward, even if, & perhaps especially when it is hard, or frightening, or even incredibly joyful. If we lean forward in these situations, if we peel out into the flow of life with just a bit more of a committed forward lean, with just a little more assumed confidence, we might just find ourselves more intimately engaged with the main flow of our lives, and perhaps all the happier for it.

Lexi Golestani

You can find Lexi traveling and Blogging at:

Photo Credits Below: Merak Ventures

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