Spiritual symmetry and canonical organizational belief systems offer up a quandary to a person such as myself. Apt to “go with the flow,” I suppose if I were to adhere to a structure of thought, the Tao might be most appropriate. Preferring instead wu wei, to stricture, I’d rather follow a less dogmatic ideology.
Nomadic tribes and Bronze Age peoples had an uncomplicated view of the world. The Moon’s reflection, revered for the light it brought to darkened forests and subterranean caves, garnered respect. The green returning from its long winter hiatus, along with the Sun’s return, elicited joy. Spirits of the long-deceased gave consult to those seeking refuge. Narratives told were edited and collated over the millennia resulting in the organized religions of today.
Either my parents were either too busy to indoctrinate me, or they understood that a belief system needs to be acquired slowly. I liken it to developing a taste for fine wine. What once seemed arid and acerbic is transmuted to full-bodied with hints of blackberry and cassis over time. Though many family and friends subscribed to an organized view of spirituality I could not. Throughout, I attempted to understand many religious doctrines but always found them constricting and decided to bow out of the entire process at a very early age. I simply maintained a faith in nature since it has always abided by me, allowing myself instead to absorb the natural magic around me with the knowledge that we, like the tides, flow in and out of life. Without hostility towards binding spirit into manuscript, agnosticism seemed a better fit when gods and saints and angels were not part of my repertoire.
Then on a blustery, snowy predawn morning on March 17th 2007, an angel fell to earth and into my arms.
Not being familiar with the congenital birth defect gastroschisis, I immediately sought to understand it in its entirety. Reading medical journals and literature seeking explanation for this aberration in nature, I was relentless in my search for answers.
Gastroschisis is a condition seldom encountered; however of late is on the rise statistically. It occurs when during gestation the human fetus’s intestinal organs form outside of the abdominal wall. The amniotic fluid surrounding the unprotected organs, caustic from uric acid secretions in the waste from the fetus, causes the organs to swell, pushing them out through the skin usually to the right of the umbilicus.
At birth, the infant must endure immediate surgery to place the organs back inside the abdomen. Aside from being bathed in uric acid while inside the womb, once born, the organs are exposed to the air and subject to drying out and further bacterial infection.
More severe is an omphalocele, mostly occurring in males, in which a larger opening is present in the abdominal wall. Treatment generally consists of placing a silo around the organs and utilizing pressure over a period of days to weeks to coax the organs back into position. The literature as to the cause of this birth defect is somewhat weak. The etiology is not fully known. It seems to occur in women under 30. It is not linked to chromosome abnormality or attributed to drug use.
They chose to call her Sophia and when she gazed at me for the first time I recognized a distant familiarity. As though acquainted in some long-ago time and place, we knew one another at once. Repressed by extreme malaise and qualm she lay stoic, a tiny courageous female warrior. She seemed to possess some innate wisdom of her surroundings, her anguish, and the world. Volumes were exchanged between mine and those baby eyes.
Soon, time passed and she healed quite well aside from some periodic abdominal disturbances.
On her tummy, a faint star-shaped scar remained where a belly button should have been. Repeatedly she would point at it and look at those around her for answers.
Unknown she and I were to the origin of her name: the Hagia Sophia, a large basilica in Constantinople, which translated means Holy Wisdom. The imperial capital of the Roman Empire oddly enough would be my home once as a child.
She tenderly spoke in a sweet little voice only a baby could have. Inquisitively, “Nona, where is my belly-button?” she’d ask. Rather than reply with an explanation of the variances in nature or how the surgeon made her tummy all better, I assured her from the depths of my spirit, “Because angels don’t have belly buttons, Sophia.”