The “Anchorhold” is the name of the house where my partner and I live: “an anchorhold” is a small “cell” often built into the defensive walls of medieval cities and occupied by a solitary hermit, or anchorite, renowned locally for their wisdom and good counsel. There was usually a small barred window at which a member of the public could come to talk with the occupant and receive advice or ask for their prayers. A famous example of such an anchorite (or anchoress) would have been Julian of Norwich (circa 1342-1416) who lived, as the name suggests, in a cell, in the walls of the medieval city of Norwich, England. Our house is a stone thatched cottage of about 200 years old. The bedroom of which is actually a converted stable, which originally formed an adjunct to the main cottage before we came to live here in 1994.
The house has always had a very good “feeling” about it. In a storm, or late at night in winter, there is a distinct feeling of safety, well-being and protection within its walls. In the Irish winter, or even now in early spring with the daffodils in bloom, it can be difficult to get out of the house, whether to work in the garden, go shopping or take a walk down the small lane to the lake; the wood fire in the stove is just too inviting to leave. As I settled for a meditation a few mornings ago I was filled with an anxious need to get out and “be one” with things out there in Nature. It arose like a typical distracting anxiety common at the beginning of a period of quiet meditation. As I settled, however, my old union with the house and its calming spirit of place answered the doubt I had.
“You are out there,” it seemed to say. “The house is one with the outside world”, the inner voice said. It occurred to me then that in that moment there was no division between where I was sat and the windy world outside, all were really one, built of the same rock, sitting both in the same ancient lake bed, under the same sun and moon and stars. All I had to do, all that was required of me, was to join the house in that union and be thankful for the protection, the home, that the old lake bed offered in the form of this stone and reed. Julian would have known that feeling well!