Ángeles are a popular theme within the social structure of Ecuador.
Catholicism reigns in this small South American country. There are paintings and statuary, carvings, drawings and reliefs of ángeles everywhere. Most of these are depicted in the traditional manner, with wings, cherub-like faces, and soft, flowing robes.
Then, there are the seemingly more human ángeles. Perhaps you think of a sister you know at a local convent as an ángel. Maybe a priest at the local catedral fills your mind’s eye with the image. Maybe it’s the man you see handing out lollipops to children on remote rural roads. Or, the person who donates his time teaching younger Ecuadorian children.
Sure, there are plenty of human “angels” who are doing the work of God, loving and caring for others more than themselves. It’s natural for many of us to think of them as heavenly beings come to earth.
But, do you think there really are ángeles? Do they really descend to earth, from heaven to spend time with mere mortals? And, to what end? Have you ever seen one?
I’m an open-minded guy. However, I often approach things in a manner of keen inspection, so that I can determine their validity. I then process what I take in. This manner of interaction has served me well through years of walking the face of the earth. However, about a month ago, it was severely challenged. And, it was ángeles that provided the challenge.
It was back in old Calle de Santa Ana, an alleyway bricked shut, sealed from five sides for well over a century. The alleyway is narrow and wedged between the New Cathedral in Cuenca and the old seminary. It was originally a Cañari road, oriented east/west, following the path of the sun, a religious icon of the culture.
Upon their arrival in what is now Cuenca, the Spanish renamed it for the mother of the Virgin Mary. I also read that the constellation known as the Southern Cross was mimicked by the manner in which Benigno Malo bisects Calle de Santa Ana. There were stories of strange lights back there dancing off the old walls at night. To say the least, the area is part of and adjacent to areas of extreme spiritual and religious significance. That was all I knew about the place on the night it happened.
The day had been tiresome and the night following it found me restless. It was about one in the morning when I decided to rise and take a brief walk in hopes of inducing sleepiness.
I grabbed a camera on the way out the door. Down the elevator and out the door, my pace quickened as I headed west on Calle Gran Colombia. I hooked a left on Cordero, intending to cut a diagonal across Parque Calderon after crossing Bolivar. I was about three-quarters of the way across the parque when a flicker of light crossed my right eye. I turned my head to see what I expected to be a late-night emergency vehicle but that wasn’t what I saw. My pulse quickened. Below the upper roof edge of the old seminary, adjacent to the New Cathedral was a faint light. It barely spilled forth from the open alley top that separated the two structures.
I stopped so suddenly that I careened off a park bench. Catching myself on the ornamental ironwork of a low fence, I straightened and dared myself to look again. The light, though faint, was clearly visible. I was still for all of twelve minutes as I conceived a plan in which I would come to know the origin of the light. My eyes never looked down as I wound my way through the edge of the parque, arriving at an old downspout fastened to the north wall of Seminario San Luis. I was grateful for the concealing darkness, courtesy of long-dead streetlights, as I quickly gained the rooftop, my Keens finding good purchase between the old plaster and downspout brackets.
Worried that I wouldn’t see the glow anymore, I approached the roof apex on the north wall which revealed two separate courtyards to my night-adapted vision. From there I could see the glow again. I almost cursed aloud as I felt fear and excitement flood together in equal levels. The glow appeared to be more concentrated in the western end of the alleyway as I neared. The light was colored, I could see that now. It was pinkish-white and had an odd flicker as it rose and fell on the old brick.
Nearing the edge of the roof on the south seminary wall, I noticed I could hear the sound of my own heart beating; it was that quiet. A little fog was visible in the light of a distant streetlight. I eased along the downslope from the roof line hugging the tiles as I squirmed along like an infantryman. The sight I saw as I gently moved the right side of my face past the roof-tiles was disarming to say the least. I pulled away and rolled over on my back, breathing way too fast. Thirty-seconds later, I was at the roofline with the camera aimed into the pinkish-white light below, taking in a sight that I thought to be not of this world.
The light illuminated most of the alleyway and although dim, it was twice as bright in the area below me where the greatest number of ángeles were gathered. They didn’t have wings like the artists’ renditions I was familiar with. Male and female alike were clothed in hooded white gowns. Fine cloth, similar to gauze, flowed from their robes and around them. Everything was muted: colors, faces, robes and light. All that I took in seemed quite surreal.
I noticed two seated ángeles, both women. They seemed to be the focal point of the gathering. The brightest glow of that faint, pinkish-white light surrounded them. All the other ángeles were passing by their station, acknowledging them by gently taking both of their hands. I saw there were some less ángeles there than when I first peered over the roof edge. I looked toward the last of the ángeles I could see. They seemed to disappear, passing through the eastern wall at the end of old Calle de Santa Ana. I watched as another ángel approached the pair, there were only nine left to confer with the two seated ángeles. In a moment, it all seemed so perfectly clear. Messages and tasks were being delegated to those passing by the two seated beings.
It was then that I was able to make out the edge of a large stone well that the two were seated on. They had never moved. The significance of the well in comparison to an old adage, a well of knowledge, seemed to grow in my head. The last few in line passed in front of the two ángeles, receiving their hand grasps and what seemed to be divine information. I suddenly realized I had yet to press the shutter button on my camera, I had not recorded the scene!
The last of the ángeles that had been in line neared the end of the alleyway and faded from sight as all the others had. I was alone with the two that were seated on the edge of the water-well. As I began to depress the shutter button, one of them quickly placed her hands to her mouth and the other covered her eyes as a beam of the brightest blue light I have ever seen came down from above in a powerful flash. I depressed the shutter. The bluish plasma seemed to spill onto the both of them and a nano-second later, they were gone. The area below me was in the blackness of night as if none of what I have written had ever come to pass.
Troubled by my experience, I’ve thought of it many times since it happened. I really didn’t want to but began to lean in the direction of simply discarding my experience, chalking it up to…well…I don’t know what. I had checked my self several times while all this had occurred coming back each time with indicators that I was of full mental capacity at the time of the event. I had walked home that night after the experience feeling just fine.
Months passed and then one day, Edie had some information to offer me. I had not shared my nocturnal experiences at Calle de Santa Ana with her. She announced that the alleyway had opened and was receiving visitors along it’s old cobbled street. She wanted to go take a look and of course I said yes, but I began to think I really didn’t want to go in there. However, I had no reason, no need for fear that I could identify.
Feeling uneasy, I crossed Calderon with her heading to the alleyway. I felt unusually warm when I entered that space and filled with an inner peace that defied explanation. As we walked on, I was indulging myself with mental imagery of my earlier experience there. I looked to the roof edge where I had made my photograph. It was all normal, nothing out of place. From there, my eyes followed a line from the roof to where I had seen the two ángeles seated by the old water-well. I didn’t have any expectations of seeing anything there but the same alleyway cobbles that lined the street.
But wait, there was a large, shiny piece of architectural glass covering an open excavation in the street. My heart racing out of control, I walked over to it. Below the glass and below street level several feet was the remnant of a large water-well. A nearby placard indicated that it had been unearthed during the alley’s renovation. It was clearly the well I had seen on the night my life had been changed forever.