Finding the sacred in boiling mud

It was eerily beautiful to be alone with boiling mud pools today. The underworld seemed close, veiled by billowing sulphurous mist. The mud blurped into weirdly wonderful circular forms, quickly disappeared, then reformed again and again.

I’ve been a devotee of these slurpy boiling pools since mid-March when we first visited one of Rotorua’s geothermal parks. So when Kenton scheduled yet another interview in what is nicknamed “the surphur city,” I snatched the opportunity for extra private time with these oozing, mesmerizing blobs of grey.

This active volcanic region is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The earth’s underbelly of magma heats the ground close to the surface, where the crust is thin and unstable. Super-heated steam rising under a myriad of ponds melts surface rock into clay that mixes with rainwater.

The gurgling of the simmering slurry is lulling. Yet, it exudes a primordial intensity, too, attesting to a planet still red hot with life and creative energy—and its opposite, nature’s potent force of destruction.

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In this way, the scene presented a time-lapsed duality of form and formless before my eyes. Conceptually, this is a theme I explore in sculpture—the way all life is destined to decay and dissolve, yet also to persist by rebirthing and reforming ad infinitum.

I thought quickly of an ancient prayer in the Bhagavata that says: “O Lord, Thou hast form, and Thou art also formless.” Proof, I suppose, that one can find spiritual truth just about anywhere. Even mud can be sacred.

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