Reflections from London

I came to bury my father. Yet retracing his footsteps in London, it seems he is leading me forwards!

Learning what drove him, and through him, what drives me, I will now be asking Antarctic expeditioners to
Describe a moment of pleasure in the ice. This may change to ‘Moments of reflection in the ice’, or simply, ‘reflections in the ice.’

My hunch is that the pleasure to be found in feeling, thinking and doing, is heightened in Antarctica’s austere environment.

Reflecting on my pilgrimage to my father’s favorite haunts, certain experiences, emotions and ideas seemed to gather around symbols:



The first object to catch my eye at the Freud Museum (Finchley Park) was a Japanese woodcut of Mount Fuji by Kiyoshi Yoshida, composed in 1929. Given to Freud by the Japanese psychologist Heisaku Kosawa, the image depicts the mountain centrally placed, its perfect reflection in water below. Remembering that seeing reflections in the Rorschach test signifies an ‘intellectual mind,’ I connect this image with how Freud, like my father, intellectualized emotions.

Read an earlier Log entry, Mirror metaphor.


Freud recognised certain feelings, related to him by others, as beyond his own experience. One of these, to which he attrubtes the origins of religious belief in many people, he describes as

…a sensation of eternity…a feeling of something limitless, unbounded, something ‘oceanic’…a purely subjective experience …

admitting that

I cannot discover this ‘oceanic’ feeling in myself. It is not easy to deal scientifically with feelings.

Freud, Civilization and its discontents (1930), Pub. Doubleday Anchor, 1958, p.2

I am not alone in experiencing this oceanic sensation when things go well in art and life. For me it is a feeling of at-oneness with the natural world (including other people), and is beyond the logic of language to describe.

Moments of heightened emotion, such as childbirth, and witnessing a death, can trigger an intense experience of this emotion. Making art is another way into the oceanic landscape.


On traveling, I read this caption in the Freud Musum, next to a European landscape of a natural spa:

In 1912 the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society discussed the psychoanalysis of travel. One speaker related “travel” (German reisen) to “tearing (free)” (reissen). Freud thought this plausible: he spoke of his own travelling as tearing himself away from a repressive background. Freud then spoke of taking the waters. Some neurotics, he stated, transfer their inner conflicts into a place such as a spa:

“There are types – obsessional neurotics, in particular, are such people – who have a much more solid relation with space than with time.”


Freud suggested that the mind is an archaeological site, where ideas and emotions become attached to physical experiences, and that pleasure, in its many different forms, guides all human behaviour.

In the History of the Psychoanalytical Movement Freud wrote: “The theory of repression is the corner-stone on which the whole structure of psychoanalysis rests.” Psychoanalytic treatment is an attempt at liberating repressed love which has found meagre outlet in the compromise of a symptom.”

Caption, ‘Gravida’, Freud Museum, London, January 2008

Freudian analysis of literary texts began with Freud’s analysis of Jenson’s story Gravida. In his book, Delusions and Dreams, Freud made the first full-length application of psychoanalysis to a literary text:

Jenson’s hero is an archaeologist who has fallen in love with the figure of the woman on the bas-relief and has the delusion of meeting her in real life in Pompeii. But she turns out to be his childhood sweetheart, and, like a psychotherapist, she enters into the hero’s delusion in order to guide him back to reality.

Caption, ‘Gravida’, Freud Museum, London, January 2008



I drew a sketch of Freud’s chair – a turning, female form. It reminds me of the female forms assumed by snow that has drifted into Antarctic huts.

See a past Post, Ice Maidens, about John Bechervaise writing about female forms in the ice.


With my father on my mind, this caption to a photo of the Acropolis caught my attention. It is about Freud’s relationship to his father:

On the Acropolis (1904) he experienced a curious sense of disbelief or “derealisation”.

He traced the cause back to childhood and fear of the father. In Athens he had reached a place his own father could never visit. Unconscious guilt at having surpassed him undermined his pleasure and made the experience seem, for a moment, unreal.

Do some people experience this kind of guilt when experiencing Antarctic landscape?



Beneath a sketch of Freud (1938) by Salvador Dali:

Freud’s cranium is a snail! His brain is in the form of a spiral – to be extracted by a needle! This discovery strongly influenced the portrait drawing which I later made from life, a year before his death.

Dali, The Secret life of Salvador Dali (1942)


Standing on the line at 0 longitude at the Greenwich Observatory, I experience time and space as one, and the feeling that only the present moment is real.

Animating with simple line art to the voices of expeditioners, describing their moments of pleasure in the Antarctic landscape, can draw people simply into a moment experienced. Vicariously experiencing a human presence in its landscape can help to face the fear of what the ice is telling us…a way in to knowing the facts being revealed in Antarctica.


Roget’s thesaurus had six categories of meaning.

I have been searching for categories within which might be placed Antarctic animations.

Freud characterizes three forms of pleasure as Eros, Narcissus and the Man of Action.

Acknowledging that some can find pleasure in destruction, my categories can show three light and three dark pleasures:

Positive Passion, Self-reflection and Action; Negative Passion, Self-reflection and Action.

In the Kew Gardens I circled the Common Oak (Quercus robur), where my father’s ashes were scattered yesterday. It was here that his mother (my grandmother) Norah played. As a daughter of William Watson, the garden’s curator, and author of The Gardener’s Companion (1859), she passed on a passion for growing things, and a love of the natural world.


At Greenwich I saw a planesphere – a flat disk representing a sphere of stars.

That we are made of stardust suggests another object:

Images and animations, drawn from moments of pleasure, can be turned into a planisphere – not of stars, but of minds.

Antarctic animations can be projected from six planes, to form a sphere.



One Reply to “Reflections from London”

  1. Lisa – thank you for highlighting this thoughtful reflective piece! It has stirred a lot of thoughts in me and I look forward to taking your words and images into my day…
    in particular it has me thinking of:
    – spirals
    – journeying/traveling as tearing free (reisen/reissen)
    – love and mirrors
    – and the idea of pieces and whole – the idea of projecting on various planes to form a whole ‘sphere’
    …I often think about the spherical nature of spaces between us and things…
    And like you I am currently looking deeply at objects … in my case, trying to listen to the story/stories I am to tell…

    …the spiral, love, mirrors – all symbols of growth…and all with strong shadow/internal/external sides/facets

    …and it connects to my own thinking around being in many places and times at once – while writing and thinking around different times, while also being present…perhaps we are all looking to be on our own Greenwich line 0 … through the centre of our own spheres….
    …in the meantime I also wanted to add: i was taken to that Oak and your father exploring and growing and breathing in a different way – with the tree; to his mother playing; to his grandfather curating and growing…to growing things in general

    thank you for sharing
    healing thoughts and sounds…and the ocean

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Posted on Sunday, February 3rd, 2008