Lava Pit

Article/Photos: Lo Senhao

Winter paces around slowly, reluctant to leave the cold forest. Agitated spring breezes soften its micro-crystalline – enriched air and give an additional fragrance, while Camellias come to revive and start to edit her glamorous pages; weeping cherry blossoms on the other side are busy combing their aromatic hair; Taiwan lilies hold their damp taste buds, licking the sweet dew; rose vines open their hearts, lazily enjoying the gentle touch of the spring sun, the floral bed sheet sunbathes on the irregular shaped grassland. Every morning, my soul must spend some time to stay alone with the sun and the refreshing and soothing earth. I always feel that if I sit and lie down on the ground, touching the soil, I will have more feelings and deeper thoughts, and my life will become more solid. Then I pick up a shovel, slowly push the soil aside, and get ready to plant a colorful azalea that is urging to put down its roots.

I place the vigorous colorful azalea into the pit that I hae dug, and cover it with fragrant soil while appreciating the verdant fresh shoot of the tree seedling, imagining its future beauty. All of a sudden, I hear some commotion, as if the other over thirty plants temporarily growing in the pots are calling me, saying that their roots and stems also need the sense of belonging to the land … When I quietly start at the earth, grass, lavish trees and flowers in the surroundings, I discover that they hae been looking after me all this time. Behind my studio lies the Datun volcano with over 20 peaks. From the Jhuzai, Siaoyuanyin, Caigong, Miantian, and Daturi Mountains to the south to Cising Mountain, elevation 1,120 meters, seeing all the way to Kuanyin Mountain in Bali. These groups of volcanic peaks erupted one after another about 2,500,000 to 300,000 years ago. The studio is built on the surface of lava flow between the Jhuzai and Siaoyuanyin Mountains. The volcanic lava classified as Andesite contains mainly plagioclase and magnesioferrite, and also some magnetite and ilmenite. I am particularly attracted to the ubiquitous volcanic debris that has been deeply weathered into a great mass of purple-brown clay under the influence of earth dynamics, temperature and the humid environment. This type of oceanic crust contains a com a position similar to the mantle, showing the characteristics of the youngest soil on the earth.

Thinking thoroughly, Taiwan has been under the seabed since 35 million years ago, only occasionally rising above water and looking around. Churning and turning, she has been making a geological Mille-feuille in such a tremendously challenging condition. Scorching hot lava cools down into igneous rock, becomes sedimentary rock through weathering infusion, transforms to metamorphic rock, then maybe encounters some high-temperature lava from a new volcano, and another geological incarnation begins again. The potential personality and characteristics of the earth – compressed layers on top of layers according to various timings and encounters. Taiwan, shaped like a whale, has gone through diagenesis and later orogenesis, after practicing and brewing over a long period of time, it finally completed its cycle and surfaced above sea level. Soon after, it has cast over twenty lava fireworks in the sky, passionately celebrating the birth of this heavenly island of “Penglai”.

burning hot lava slowly flowing underground as if it’s the warm blood of the earth, keeping the temperature of life. I often press my head low on the surface of the earth, hoping my cold and stiff brain can have a dialog with the boiling hot lava. Just as expected, one day, lava told me that “the thing you seek was given to you millions of years ago. There are abundant paulite, basalt chips with dense magnetite, andesite sheets, iron quartz sand, and plenty of other irreplaceable minerals and plant ashes. The purple brown clay with high iron content is not only good for planting camellia, but also is the top quality ingredient in ceramic arts. Come test it on a trial.” I carefully crush these precious items for analysis, making recipes with different rations and send the work into the kiln for a eutectic mixture. The lava from millions of years ago starts to flow again, and is re-awakened by the fire. Today, her modern name is Temmoku. I often hold a Temmoku bowl, sitting in the forest alone, feeling the gentle and moist texture, and appreciating the radiating shines in the bowl. My unique feeling towards the “earth” transforms to respect and gratitude.

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