Saturday, June 2, 2012

June 2 Photo: Empty


Empty is a word often associated with sadness and loss. Synonyms for empty are words like lacking, devoid, missing, absent, gone, depleted. A gas tank that is empty means you are going nowhere. A pantry that is empty means you are going hungry. A heart that is empty is grieving. A home that is empty is abandoned. A life that is empty is meaningless.

But empty can also be a beautiful thing. It can be associated with completion and fulfillment. An “empty nest” means that the children have matured to the point of being self-sufficient, and the parents have completed their job of raising them to a productive adulthood. An empty plate indicates that a delicious meal was eaten and enjoyed in its entirety. An empty calendar means freedom to do whatever you please whenever you please.

And “empty” in its purest form can be pure beauty. This morning, as I thought about how to photograph the word “empty,” I first thought about taking a picture of my bathtub. The kids take a bath together every night, and when the tub is drained, it is empty of water but still full of colorful toys. I thought the bright toys against the white of the bathtub might be pretty. But when I went into the bathroom, a plastic cup on the counter caught my eye. I keep the cup by my sink for when I need to take pills, or rinse out my mouth after I brush my teeth, or if I happen to need a quick drink. It’s cheap and utilitarian. It’s just a heavy-gauge, “crystal cut” plastic cup like many of us have in our homes. But as I looked down into it, I saw the beauty of those cheap crystal facets in a new light.

Instead of a cup, it’s a stained glass window, or a carved glass prism, or an intricately cut gemstone. It’s an object of beauty, a piece of art. It’s something to be enjoyed and valued for the mere pleasure of how it looks. It is the beauty of empty.

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