Traveling to Holden is clearly a pilgrimage – a good reminder of how much of a “migrant” community this place is. Car, boat, bus and then carting suitcases up the hill to the Chalet. This is definitely a place apart: walking down to the dining room without a wallet (“come eat, without money and without price” beckons the prophet, and the rich table is truly set); watching people carrying suitcases down to the dock as they prepare to leave and others carrying up the hill to their housing. The nightly ritual of naming those who have come new to the Village and praying for those who will depart – daily reminders of the transitional nature of the place and of our lives.
Numerous conversations – in the kitchen where I volunteered to help chop some vegetables or around meals – focus on where people are from and where they are going. The former is sometimes easier to speak about – our roots, our towns, our families, our memories – than the latter, as where we will go next is often more uncertain. A place like Holden attracts those of us whose sense of the future is less firm and clear. Many of the people who are working here – from the directors to a college student volunteering for the summer – are not sure what awaits them at the end of their time in the Village. Isn’t that the life of an immigrant? A life of uncertainty about what lies ahead and a recognition that there are other things – God? – that will determine the next steps.