Immurement is a ghastly form of punishment. From wiki: “Immurement (from Latin im- “in” and murus “wall”; literally “walling in”) is a form of imprisonment, usually until death, in which a person is sealed within an enclosed space with no exits.[1] This includes instances where people have been enclosed in extremely tight confinement, such as within a coffin. When used as a means of execution, the prisoner is simply left to die from starvation or dehydration. This form of execution is distinct from being buried alive, in which the victim typically dies of asphyxiation.”

Straddling the thin line between passion and pathology, as certain members of we faithful tend to do, there have been those who adopted a modified form of the practice as a way of ongoing, if rather straitened, life.

To wit, again from wiki: “Anchorites: A particularly severe form of asceticism within Christianity is that of anchorites, who typically allowed themselves to be immured, and subsisting on minimal food. For example, in the 4th century AD, one nun named Alexandra immured herself in a tomb for ten years with a tiny aperture enabling her to receive meager provisions. Saint Jerome (c. 340–420) spoke of one follower who spent his entire life in a cistern, consuming no more than five figs a day.”

I’d read of such people somewhere along the line: nuns who shut themselves up except for a tiny opening through which they’d receive food, the Eucharist, and visitors seeking spiritual guidance. Naturally, I was compelled–cranks, very possibly, and yet…


Anyway, the other morning I was sitting out front, admiring the light filtering through the ocotillo-spine fence and realizing I’ve barely been leaving my house except for long walks and supplies, and I thought: I’m immured!

Think about it. I’m surrounded by an enclosure, on all four sides. I actually have a box of figs in the fridge. Leave out the people approaching for spiritual guidance…the holiness…the formal vow….okay, so maybe I’m not actually immured. I’m more like one of those six-year-old boys who drapes a blanket around his shoulders, steals a candle from the living room, and makes his little friends gather round a makeshift altar while he pretends to be a priest.

Whatever–I’m having the time of my life. All kidding aside, the 2020 lockdown, if not for the terrible suffering wreaked by the pandemic, suited me to a T. Continuing with the theme, soaring summer temps in Tucson make for a day that is naturally spent close to home. Walking early in the morning or evening is to me heaven (might be a bit on the warm side for others, but I am one of those people who is, annoyingly, always “cold”).

Speaking of pretending, illusion etc. I have also become obsessed, not too strong a word, with learning how to shoot and edit YouTube (or really any kind of) videos. Let’s pretend…No. Not that we’re YouTube “stars.” But that our desires, no matter how seemingly childish, to light the world on fire with Christ somehow, somewhere, avail.


8 Replies to “CLOISTERED”

  1. I’m happy you are acclimating well to your new home. Your move was a true leap of faith! I’m proud of you.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      All glory to God who works so patiently and eagerly with cowards! Thanks, Paulette–

  2. Heather, Sounds wonderful! So, do you pray and read most of the time? I need to train myself to be still….Ingrid

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh don’t get the wrong impression, Ingrid–it’s not like I drop everything and spend many hours a day in contemplative prayer. And I don’t even think it’s a matter of discipline–more that I’ve availed myself of the freedom to discern my desires and in some rough way, follow them…I like silence and solitude, so I have quite a bit of both of them. Which allows me to lead a life more or less of the heart and the mind. I do pray (I use the term loosely) for an hour or so first thing in the morning: the Office, that day’s liturgy, a few other things. Sometimes just sit quietly, sometimes write in my journal or do a written exam. of conscience if I’m bothered by a particular conflict or resentment or am trying to make a decision.

      I do read a lot. I don’t think of this much, but I don’t watch TV nor listen to the radio–I love film and watch tons of them and read some from of the news online, have a few sites with thought that compels me, a lot of longform pieces and a certain amt of opionion-type pieces, kind of keeping my finger on the pulse of the world. The sound of a newscaster’s voice or even NPR type news/podcast approach and voices I simply can’t stomach. So I keep up “news-wise” by reading, and then spend mental time absolutely pondering the issues of the day, our collective spiritual bankruptcy, etc.

      But then I’m also reading travel, novels, memoir, art, a certain amt of books about prayer, spirituality, theology–all that goes into the hopper and gets filtered through my Catholic lens. I’m always “writing,” even if I’m not at my desk. A weekly arts and culture column means constantly sifting, percolating, weighing, planning, writing, researching, revising, interviewing. I also maintain a blog, and post daily on IG and/or FB, so that’s another form of constanly considering content, photos.

      Meanwhile I’m interrupted, like the rest of the world, at least every five minutes it seems by texts, emails, phone calls, requests. There are interviews, both my own and others’ to schedule. I administer what amounts to my own business and run my own household, which now includes a front and back garden.

      Part of what I love is to take an hour-long min. walk each day–I also do stretches, lift weights, and floor exercises to keep in some kind of rudimentary shape.

      I try to play the piano (elec keyboard in my case) for an hour each day.

      Prayer at night. Rosary, often while walking.

      Often, as often as I can, daily Mass, which I often walk o.

      So there are hardly enough hours in the day. I get up at 5 or so and thus sometimes take an afternoon nap and read for a bit, and also read at night. But altogether I do look at the whole thing as prayer–ora et labora, work and prayer, as the monks say. Whether I’m sweeping the floor, filling the birdfeeder, compiling an email list, balancing my checkbook, revising a column–it’s all part of the same larger “work.” I also make time for probably on the average one long phone call a day and I almost forgot–substantial time is devoted to recovery, in its myriad forms. So I don’t like a lot of fat in my day–not discipline so much as choosing how to order my life and forgoing things that don’t feed or interest me.

  3. Jeanne McNulty says: Reply

    Hi Heather,
    I loved this post and the pics of your new home. It looks wonderful. I am glad you have such a awe inspiring environment all around you and that you are feeling more and more drawn into the solitude and silence.
    Have you ever read the life of St. Colette of Corbie? I think it is a fascinating read. There is a book out, (probably out of print ) called Walled in Light. It is about her life. At the beginning of her adult life she was an anchoress, for years in Corbie, France. She loved the solitude but to her dismay the Lord called her out to reform the Order of Poor Clares and she obeyed willingly but it was so hard for her to leave her beloved solitude.
    That book had a deep influence on my life and the journey to the holler in WV.
    May Jesus draw us ever deeper into His Mystery.
    God bless!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh Sr. Jeanne, the book sounds wonderful-I looked at it on amazon and have put it on my list. I’m always captivated by the contemplative hermit types who want nothing more than to live in a cave and pray and then they’re called out to establish an order or get elected Pope or something equally contrived to make the introvert heart quail…Christ seems to find us and give us our marching orders no matter where we are…”I fled him, down the nights and down the days”…so if I’m trying to escape or avoid the world, as opposed to trying to enter more deeply into it, He always pulls my covers…You, having lived in your “cloister” in the holler for so long know way more about this than I do! Blessings to you in Pittsburgh–

  4. Regina George says: Reply

    Dear Heather
    I am a faithful reader of several years who has delighted in your journey.
    Thank you for helping me keep to my own path of prayer and patience.
    Thank you for sharing so generously from your heart and head.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Regina, bless you and how lovely to know you are a long-standing reader! Many thanks for sticking your head in and letting me know–more to come.


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