Walk the World

about leaning in

There’s a lock system near my place in Moscow that moves you from one river system to another. It’s old, industrial and soviet. But it works. And there’s a definite beauty to it. It’s a system of checks and delays that reminds me of the delays we run into in our lives. Like, giving us time to acclimate to the next big thing in life.

locksA lock says, hey kid, you’re not ready for this next river, you need to a moment to prep.

Recently my boss said of a complicated situation, “we’re going to just lean into this and see what happens…” And it struck me. Foremost because I love the notion of leaning into anything. Forward posture. But it also tickled a thought about human design and the world around us. Leaning in. Think: You’re never stable-in-stance when you lean back, but you’re are always stable leaning forward.

It’s fall now and fall is all about leaning into winter. And fall in Moscow has a short lifespan. It’s so much “fall” that I just ran two laps on my trail circuit and the leaves had turned another shade of yellow on the second pass. run_leaves.jpgTrue story.

So. Let’s step back a couple of decades. I was in Alma-Ata, yes, in November of 19shmshmshrm.  But the important part here, is that it was November, and I was living at the southern edge of the Kazakh Steppe, abutting the Altai Mountain range. If someone sneezed southward out of Siberia it eventually plastered itself into Alma-Ata as it met the wall of the Altai range.

I was admiring some some painted tea sets at a marketplace. One of them depicted a Kazakh family walking with packs on their backs alongside a couple of loaded pack horses. They were bent sharply forward as they walked – even the horse. I asked the old weathered man at the stall what they doing in this scene. All I gathered from his toothless, kindly response was “buran.” He gestured broadly with his hands then gathered himself together, tightening his clothes and leaned forward, and blurted “Buran! Buran!” Then he held up four fingers and said “Alma-Ata.  Buran.” And he held up the four fingers again and laughed. Um hm. Okay.

I asked one of my teachers about this the next day ( in 19shmshmshrm there were no googles, right?). She said, well he was telling you The Buran is coming in four days.  I said, The Buran sounds bad, and should I get ready? And also, what is it? And it doesn’t help that you added a definite article. Is that just the Russian -to-English language thing happening, or is the Buran so worthy of being singular and definitive in nature? I wondered these things.

She then described something I had only imagined as a Biblical event from one of the scriptures that never made the canon of the Bible. Or, maybe the exact opposite: Apocalyptic. A powerful sandstorm from the steppes (of hell) that would come like a herd of horses carrying Father Winter (in frozen fury) on its back. The day would turn dusty red and dark (I told you it sounded Apocalyptic) and then a snow would fall covering up the whole mess. And you better be inside when it happens. In four days. No, make that three days. The whole thing sounded ridiculously overstated. After all it was still 70 F.

But it happened. On the very day the old Kazakh man predicted. Wind. Red. Dark. Blowing trash. Sand. Redder. Darker. And then evening fell. In the morning there were at least 6-8 inches of snow on the ground. That’s some leaning-in weather. I’ll never forget the day it went from 70 degrees to 30 degrees in the middle of a blackout sandstorm. And some old guy called it four days earlier.

The point here is that you and I are designed to lean into the impending Whateverness. It’s coming. Winter is coming (not an intentional Game of Thrones reference. Really). Something that will challenge you, change you. You were built to lean into it.

If you’ve grown so complacent in the glory of summer, you might consider testing the winds and get ready to lean in. Take a forward posture. Lean in. Buran. Lean in.


 “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
― Albert Camus