Share your thoughts and favorite memories of Leaven

The Leaven community will both grieve and celebrate. Let’s do it together.

Please share what you are thinking about The Leaven Center’s closing, and also about what Leaven has meant to you over its 24-year history.


4 responses to “Share your thoughts and favorite memories of Leaven

  • Julie Boleyn

    I first heard about Leaven in my early twenties. I’d found Melanie’s book, The Grace of Coming Home, sequestered in a far corner of my favorite book store. I devoured the book in a single setting, finding in it’s pages grace and nourishment, and challenge. Her words gave me language for my life, and for my hopes. And I wanted more.

    So, in the course of time, I found myself looking for an internship. My college allowed me to get credit for such endeavors, and they encouraged me to consider what I’d most like to do. Hearing that Leaven, now with a center, was looking for an intern, I applied, eager and hopeful.

    Overjoyed to interview, I remember walking through the grounds, a marvelous and strange wood, nestled against rolling fields, hiding a dramatic fall to the river. I’m a west-coaster by background, and I’d never seen so many deciduous trees nakedly touching the sky. It was foreign, and beautiful. Quiet, and removed.

    I also remember that first night, as I sat in the guest house, amazed that this opportunity had come–the opportunity to be challenged, encouraged, and shaped by people whose yearnings and hopes were far deeper than I’d imagined possible. I was overwhelmed.

    And I was overwhelmed that August, when I arrived in sauna-like heat, as my body was completely unfamiliar with humidity, and morally opposed to heat. The truth is, I was homesick. The rolling hills seemed so small compared to my beloved mountains, and the woods unfamiliar and even odd. And on top of that, well, there was the Midwest, a cultural reality vastly and subtly different than I’d known. I felt awkwardly out of place.

    And then, I touched the dirt. I pressed my fingers into it, wrestling out tenacious weeds. And I was transformed. April had tasked me with weeding, on what I thought was an unbearably hot and humid day. Others remarked about how mild it was. And as I sat down to that dirt, feeling it’s moistness between my fingers, noticing it’s reddish color, it felt all at once foreign, and familiar. I know it seems strange, but in the act of weeding that circle, my shoulders dropped, my breath deepened, and my resistance to the strange land of the Midwest loosened. It was as if the dirt welcomed me, welcomed me to discover this place that was at once familiar and foreign, welcomed me to discover new ways to plant myself, welcomed me to discover new ways of nurturing and growing, and welcomed me to discover the power of a strange new soil.

    And it is true, that the dirt of the Leaven Center shaped my life, in ways that will always remain with me. Sometimes it was through the mundane joy of cleaning out the grooves of that beautiful, but completely impractical kitchen floor. Once, it was in discovering the grace of Jewish women on retreat, who lovingly laughed as I tried to cook a kosher meal, as if there could be a gray area between clean and unclean. Once it was when I desperately ran to Melanie, hoping she had the courage to remove a frog from the guest house shower, when I couldn’t muster up the guts to do it myself.

    But, it was the dirt, the sacred dirt that forms us as humans, that shaped me most. The opportunity to serve and learn from the people who came through with naked despair, and honest hope. I was shaped by the opportunity to bear witness to the fertile soil of human compassion. And that has forever changed me.

    And I must also confess, that I was also shaped by the truth-telling and earnest challenge given by those around me–the reminder that I am also made of dirt, sacred and holy. Leaven was a place that always pushed me to the notice the margins, to seek out the edges, the places where life grows against the odds; Leaven always pushed me to see the world as far more fertile than I’d imagined.

    So, I’m sad, grieving, that the Leaven Center will be no more. I had hoped that it’s sacred ground would last generations. I had hoped I’d be able to bring my daughter there and have her discover her own sacred stories. But, I also know the board made the wise and right decision, and I admire their courage in making it.

    But, even while I grieve, I do take comfort in the fact that Leaven’s dirt has stuck to me well. I’m covered in it, and it will never wash off. It has mixed well into the soil of my being, allowing beautiful things to grow in me. And I know, this is true for so many others too. Leaven’s dirt has been carried to the far ends of the earth. And for this, I am truly grateful.

  • cleavesfeed

    This is beautiful Julie!!! thanks for sharing and I miss you and hope to get to see you and Jeannie sometime in the future. You both are missed at Leaven
    -sarah

  • Melanie Morrison

    Julie,
    I am profoundly moved by the memories you have shared — so beautifully, so powerfully. Thank you for capturing, in the image of dirt, the sacred gift of Leaven’s soil and how it shaped and transformed so many of us.
    – Melanie

  • Phat

    I came across the website for Leaven Center by googling Lyons Michigan. After nearly all of my life living here in Lyons, Michigan I had no idea this place existed. If I knew about this place before now, I would have made an attempt to visit. Based on the pictures and the video tour I don’t see how anyone could not fall in “love” with it. That is just how amazing the place is.
    Had to post it again because my email address had a typo. Sorry about that.

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