myth and poetry

mythopoetry Scholar


Matter & Beauty
Mythopoetry Scholar Ezine

Landscape of Myth, Dream and Imagination
-Robert Romanyshyn


The perfect stillness of the ancient ice,
In the early morning of the world’s light:
  ......A blank white page
    before the trace of the word.

 It is snowing inside us.
It has been snowing inside us for thousands
 ......of unnumbered nights
     beneath the cold blue stars.

A vast landscape of awful beauty lives within.

‘We all have our White South,’ Ernest Shackleton, one of the earliest explorers of the Antarctic once said. In the deep silence, stillness, solitude and serenity of that majestic and towering frozen landscape, the boundary between nature and soul dissolves. The journey in the outer world is also an inner one.

When, in November of 2009, Veronica Goodchild and I went to the Antarctic, we found ourselves in a world that David Campbell has described as a crystal desert. Wind is the sculptor of those crystalline forms, which in their variety mesmerize you. Was I dreaming them? At times, I felt that I was the dream of the ice itself, part of some other, larger living intelligence. The eight landings that we made were always at the mercy of this wind and its moods.

Contributing to this melting of one’s sense of separateness is the fog and mist and snow and clouds that drop so low that at times there is no horizon. In these moments all, including yourself, is formless, a kind of chaos of infinite possibilities waiting to coalesce, condense, and freeze into one of those sculptured shapes.  At other times there is sound so pure that the calving of the ice high up on a mountain glacier ripples through one’s bones. And, on occasion the blue sky and water are so transparent that one’s gaze goes through them and turns back on itself, enfolding one in its embrace. In such moments I was reminded of the artist Paul Klee’s remark about not knowing if he was looking at the trees in the forest or if they were looking at him.

Many early explorers spoke of the terrible and seductive beauty of this landscape, and there are tales of some who even walked out onto the ice never to be seen or heard of again. In the midst of all that holy splendor I can understand that desire, a longing for nothingness. Now, reflecting back on those moments, I sense I lost something long ago, or left something of myself behind, and that all that remains of those moments is only some bittersweet aftertaste on my tongue of that uncluttered face of the world, some fading memory of having glimpsed for a moment the face and form of the divine.

Thirty years ago the journey to the Antarctic began with a dream in which I met an old man on a road going north to the Arctic Circle. In the dream he said to me, ‘bring fire to the ice.’ In a very real sense collectively we have done so. Nature and soul mirror each other. The polar ice caps are melting and something in the deep psyche is also dissolving. The former portends a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. The latter presents an opportunity to re-member our broken connections with nature.  

Thirty years, two roads-north and south-, and two landscapes—inner and outer--, and all the words in between seem at this moment hardly a beginning. The image of the blue heart at the center of the melting ice tapped in me a deep pool of tears. I look at it and I hear the feint thawing sounds of my own frozen heart.

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When I returned from this journey I felt possessed, as if the landscape of those ancient, frozen forms would not release me. I began to day-dream over the many images that I had taken and, working with a composer for several months, I created a DVD with 86 of those images set to music and accompanied by a voice-over narrated by me. When it was finished and I watched it for the first time, I was surprised.
Nothing happens in this DVD. On the contrary, it, like the landscape itself, invited me only to be still, to sink into a place of reverie, into a dream of belonging, and challenged me to let go of my busy ways of doing, to begin again to be. Through the images and the music I was summoned back to beginnings, drawn into images that seemed to offer a fresh start.

The ice had worked its spell on me. It changed me and my life long devotion to the magic of words began to dissolve in the images and the sounds of those images expressed in the music. In this work I experienced again what I have on a few occasions experienced before: in our best moments we are spokespersons for the Earth!

Earth, isn’t this what you want: an invisible
re-arising within us?
-Rainer Maria Rilke

Agents in service to the Earth’s unfolding, our inner journeys in the outer world are journeys of transformation. The Antarctic is as much a mythical place in the geography of the soul as it is a location in the natural world, and in this chiasm of nature and psyche where the dreams of the Earth awaken the archetypal imagination, the veil between the time-bound and the timeless thins. In these thin places, I knew we are and have always been orphans whose inner journeys in the outer world through the splendor of the simple are journeys of homecoming.

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Robert Romanyshyn PhDAuthor Bio
Robert D. Romanyshyn PhD
is Senior Core Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute and an Affiliate Member of the Inter-Regional Society of Jungian Analysts. He is the author of six books and numerous articles in edited volumes and professional journals. He has lectured widely in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Described by others as a master story teller, he says of himself that he entered psychology many years ago through the door of philosophy and has been struggling ever since to find his way out through the door of poetry.

His most recent book is The Wounded Researcher (2007). He is currently working on three manuscripts. The Frankenstein Prophecy offers a Jungian/Archetypal reading of the melting polar ice. Left by the Side of the Road is an anti-memoir description of the writing life in service to soul. Epiphanies in Dark Light is a collection of poems, photographs and descriptions born in reveries of the splendors of the ordinary world, a psychology of the elements in which the human is only a witness and these ordinary splendors are regarded—seen again and anew—not in the bright light of mind but in the dark light of soul.

newthe DVD –Antarctica: Inner Journeys in the Outer World

To arrange a presentation of "Antarctica" with Robert and/or for purchase of the full version of the movie in DVD
contact Robert Romanyshyn at Here is a video trailer preview. (1:21min)

also in this issue

Prelude to a Memoir
Four Poems

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