By Carmelene Melanie Siani
My husband and I recently moved to a new city and within a few nights I awoke missing something that I’d had to leave behind.
25 years before, I was at a garage sale with the man I was then married to and had found her there.
“Quan Yin’s’ her name,” the garage sale guy said. “She’s the Goddess of Compassion.” I didn’t care what she was the Goddess of, I knew I wanted her.
She had touched me.
She was carved of wood—maybe iron wood, we couldn’t tell. Her eyes were closed in meditation and on her head was a crown of intricately woven hair. Her left arm cradled a scepter and her right hand was facing outward with two fingers raised in perpetual benediction.
To me, everything about her emanated peace.
The garage sale guy said his grandparents had brought her back from China—all 3 feet 4 inches of her— when they were missionaries there and, “being an antique and all,” she was worth lots of money.
We didn’t entirely believe him. This was a yard sale after all and things at yard sales always have a story designed to make them worth more. In the end however, they are worth what people are willing to pay for them and we weren’t willing to pay the amount the guy was asking. We didn’t have that much money. My husband was the one who drove home to get the $400.00 in cash the garage sale guy finally agreed to take.
“It’s a good thing this ain’t iron wood,” my husband said in his West Texas way as he was carrying Quan into the house. “I wouldn’t be able to lift her.”
I made an altar for her at the end of the hall, placing her on the top of a hand-painted chest and hanging a framed mirror behind her.
Every solstice the sun would shine through the picture window in the living room at the opposite end of the house and send a bright shaft of light all the way down that hall creating a saint’s halo around Quan’s head. It was magical.
When my marriage to the man who carried Quan into the house ended, he and I haggled over who was going to keep her, as if it were a custody battle. Eventually, she came with me to my new cottage where she and I lived alone together. She stood in a place of honor right inside the front door, the first thing you saw upon entering.
She definitely made a statement.
The man I’m married to now told me that when he came to pick me up for our first date he’d thought, “What ordinary woman would have a four foot high statute of Quan Yin inside her front door?” He and I later moved Quan with us to the house we would make our home and five years later, when we were moving again. Even though it was a temporary move, we decided to take Quan with us.
But it didn’t work out. She didn’t fit in the back of our car, there was too much stuff. We had to leave her in storage.
To me, Quan was more than a statute. She was a presence that I felt—a vibrational energy that lit up the end of the hall in my second marriage and that drew my third husband to me. With candles burning in front of her and my turquoise jewelry round her neck, she set the tone for the entire house.
And that’s why I woke up one night in my new bed, in my new apartment, in a new city, feeling a hole inside of me.
“Oh, Quan,” I cried out inside myself. “I miss you.” Not surprisingly, she answered.
She told me not to miss her. That she lived inside of me. All I had to do was look.
“Find an image of me to help you remember,” she said, just as a mother would.
The next day I went shopping and found a poster of Quan Yin that I tacked up on the wall in the kitchen so that I could see her prayerful gesture of two raised fingers from every room in the house. There she was! Back where she belonged, in a place of honor in my home.
That night, when I went to bed, the hole in my stomach was gone and I could feel a ribbon of energy stretching all the way back to Quan Yin in her place in the storage room at my old house.
“I’ll be here when you come back,” she whispered. “Not to worry. I’ll be here waiting for you when you come back home.”
Editor: Peter Schaller