The Hidden Meaning

Now, the introduction to Muse for Monday was fairly clear (reread again to be sure). Go ahead, and click the link. It will open in another tab, so you can keep reading here. The reason I wanted you to pick an image of what empty meant to you was because I discovered long after I wrote this one, it applied to so many things.

Some of your empty choices were:

  • An empty box
  • Empty nest
  • An empty bowl
  • Vacation
  • An empty heart

I thought these choices were both inventive and interesting, as they each changed the feel of the poem significantly.


I admit, the final image in the post may have (erroneously) given you the image of death. I will take the blame for that, despite the image caption. A skull to me is a form of protection… nature’s very own personalized helmet. If that is where you got the idea of death, meh, it was not my intention.

The Book

The Empty Book

The first image was how I entered the poem… A blank (empty, wordless, slightly out of shape) page. Truly, it is the writer’s empty. As read, the shadow was the idea, swirling in the brain, not sure if it is ready to coalesce and become something (beautiful, horrific, adventurous, romantic).

The millstone was writer’s block. When it fell away, the shadow escaped to fill the page. The process can be draining, often leading to an emotional void after the euphoric high of creation. What the empty heart feels is nothing: no stress, no pressure, no need.

Now does the caption of the last image make different sense?

The Box

The image of the box is an important one. When searching for photographs depicting empty for the end of the post, most of what I found was boxes. It took me two days to really wrap my brain around the image of the empty box. So, what does the box represent? Look at what boxes hold…

English: A gift wrapped in yellow and green paper.

  • Surprises
  • Supplies
  • Memories
  • Mementos

The short form? We do not keep things we do not want in boxes. When the box is empty, it is a sad thing. Have you ever gotten a present from your snarky friend who wrapped 15 little presents inside the box? What is the feeling when the box is empty?

The shadow is the wrapping paper. The millstone is the unwrapping. The emptiness is the battle between being happy with what you have and knowing there is no more.

The Empty Nest

This one was very different. Empty Nest Syndrome is not the easiest thing in the world to overcome, especially for parents whose children have been the epicenter of their universe for all of minority.

In this case, the shadow was the (graduation, moving out, getting married). The millstone was the obvious loss of responsibility. The emptiness was an empty calendar once filled with (practice, dates, recitals, sports, etc.).

The Empty Bowl

Bowls are similar to boxes, in they rarely hold something we do not want. Our first leap of faith is the bowl holds food, but other bowls hold coins, trinkets, pieces of everyday we use, things we weigh and water.

Like John’s haiku, this image brought with it hope. The empty bowl holds the promise of being filled with what we need. Once it is emptied again, we are fulfilled.


The Shadow


Angie’s correlation of empty to my vacation was outright fun. The shadow was the planning and preparing. The millstone was the travel to the destination. The emptiness was the freeing from schedules, demands and the mundanity and stress of everyday existence.

The Empty Heart

The Empty Heart

This image struck me harder than all the rest. To begin with the empty heart made me struggle with the concepts in the poem. The shadow became love. The millstone was a relationship.

The emptiness was loneliness. To interject some type of uplifting feeling, the emptiness became the chance at true love because the millstone was a bad relationship.

With the massive amount of loss I have survived, I understood this interpretation very well, even if it was not my intent in writing it. The cutting away of this millstone was death of a loved one.

The Others

There were other choices when it came to what empty was before the poem began. Some of the other options I had were:

  • A calendar
  • A wine glass or bottle
  • A piggy bank
  • The sky
  • An aquarium
  • A drawer
  • A garment

Each of these held a promise to be filled with good or bad experiences, which once complete left a different feeling of nothing. Do any of these resonate with you? Try reading it with one of them in mind.

What is nothing?

For me, the most poignant lines of the poem are the closing five lines. There is a freedom when we spend nothing (no energy, emotional capital, self-sacrifice).


Reading some of the interpretations, what is the nothing the empty heart feels? Is nothing necessarily a bad thing? Can nothing be a really good thing?

(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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  1. Closed down one post to find another in my in box – how am I to keep up with you? Interesting post. We all see things through our own filters, whether we want to or not. It’s a wonder we communicate at all.

    Question–I think for many (most?) the idea of a heart full of nothing (aside from physical death lol) is that it is better to feel pain than nothing. Feelings are such a part of us that to feel nothing would be to have a deadened heart.

    After a bout with heart break, however, one might wish to feel nothing, just to get relief from the pain.

    On the other hand, there are times when you feel nothing for something specific. For example, I look at an ordinary pair of shoes, I feel nothing. I am aware that NEVER happens in your world, but I want shoes that keep my feet from getting hurt out in the big bad world; they do not elicit any emotion unless they fail to perform.

    OK, Granddaughter pulling on my arm and trying to sneak a poke at my keys, so time to go. I look at her and my heart absolutely overflows – the opposite of nothing 🙂

    • I guess I am just the odd duck who finds solace in some nothings. I am not one who prefers negative (feeling, emotion, stimulus) to nothing.
      PS And a great opposite of nothing! 😀

  2. Nothing can be a truly great thing when it’s the answer to the question “How much taxes do I owe this year?”.

    Nothing can be a truly great thing when answering the question “What’s wrong with (me / my spouse / my child), doctor?”

    If it makes you think or causes an emotional reaction, then your post is a good thing. I reacted. Good job!

  3. The word ’emptiness’ implies the need to be filled, and nudges one toward filling the space whether a physical object or otherwise. A good post that gets me thinking further…

    • I guess in my age and stage I have come to appreciate the empty spaces. The uncluttering of the inner pack rat continues, but I have come to enjoy more Spartan exercises of heart and mind as well as the Feng Shui of openness.

  4. I believe emptiness is part of the human condition for many people. It’s too bad that many of us don’t have the tools to deal with this and fill ourselves with self-love, instead of searching for other things (alcohol, food, sex, the list goes on) to fill this hole.

    Wonderful post Red, with fabulous imagery.

    • Which makes me wonder if it is a genetic malady of the human race or merely just learned behavior. I (and this is a great revelation from a confessed pack rat) no longer feel the need to fill the emptiness. So, is it evolution or revolution?

      • evolution andrevolution. There are people who already have a genetic disposition towards the diseases I mentioned above; and more including hoarding ;), but many never act upon them, depending on outside influences.
        I could get all Piaget on my ass but it’s my personal observation that therapy and learning appropriate coping skills can help.
        I’ll never lose that emptiness, but it’s due to a severe chemical imbalance. Am far better (most days) than years before.
        Those ‘outside’ triggers can throw anyone with such an emptiness (genetic) back into the abyss though. Such as a tragic event can trigger a disease/behavior that had been dormant previously,
        Nature And Nurture.
        You hit the nail on the head with evolution vs revolution. I like that -grin-.

        • *curtsies sweetly* With PTSD, I am all too aware of the triggers. I tend to see the increased coping mechanism (when it is healthy) as evolution. When I just outright refuse to submit to the knee-jerk reaction, that is revolution. I never truly see it as a linear comparison. At least on my personal level, it is more as comparing apples and grapefruits. They are both roundish (mental health) but have such different characteristics as to resemble each other in no other way.

  5. Empty spaces (sometimes called negative space in 2D visuals ) suggest room for expansion. Extend that to wiggle-room in 3D and an allowance for additional detail to compound existing ideas in any dimension….. Does emptiness infer a requirement to be filled? IMHO, only if that specific emptiness is perceived as “negative” or an undesirable condition.
    ” Emptiness can be delightful, for the mind shall soon find SOMETHING to store within it” “:)

    • You have at least touched on the concept not all emptiness needs to be filled, which leads me to the question, what constitutes negativity, aside (obviously) from sociopathy?

  1. Muse for Monday | The M3 Blog

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