Ghosts and Questions

Monday Morning Musings:

“Some questions remain long after their owners have died. Lingering like ghosts. Looking for the answers they never found in life.”

–Michael Frayn, Copenhagen

 Bohr: “A curious sort of diary memory is.”

Heisenberg: “You open the pages, and all the neat headings and tidy jottings dissolve around you.”

Bohr: “You step through the pages into the months and days themselves.”

Margrethe: “The past becomes the present inside your head.”

—Michael Frayn, Copenhagen


We go to bed with snow on the ground and wake to spring. We step through the door, and into the day.


Winter’s ghostly forms

banished by the golden light—

one bloom has opened

We walk down city streets. Here, as we approach Chinatown, sound travels faster than sight, if not light.

We hear the drums and firecrackers, long before we see the lion. We step into the crowd. The lion dance, a centuries-old tradition. The noise of the firecrackers, the constant beating of the drum, and the lion itself will scare away evil spirits. Perhaps the ancestors smile.


Lion’s head and tail

sweeps away year’s bad fortune

brings longevity


We stop for coffee, and walk and talk, passing nineteenth-century buildings that co-exist with their newer neighbors. I feel the ghosts around us.


We step into the theater. We step into time and space. We are in Copenhagen. No, we are sharing the memories of these three: German physicist Werner Heisenberg, his Danish mentor Niels Bohr, and Bohr’s wife, Margrethe with whom he shares everything. We are in some sort of limbo.


They are ghosts, perhaps–

well, no longer living–

in this place,

this space

where they try to remember

what was said

and by whom,

recreating a meeting

when Heisenberg, who worked in Nazi Germany

visited Bohrs in occupied Denmark.

Late September, Copenhagen, 1941.


We learn about quantum mechanics,

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle,

Bohr’s Complimentary,

nuclear fission,

calculations made and not made,

the Jewish scientists who flee the Nazis,

taking their knowledge to England and the U.S.

(those who are not murdered.

The characters move around the stage,

like electrons,

but who is the nucleus?

That depends on who is telling the story.

Are we each the center of our universe?

But then why can’t we see what others see?

Going through several “drafts” trying to remember

realizing that every moment becomes the past,

looking for answers

to questions that they never asked when they were alive.


It is a play about science.

It is a play about morality.

It is a play that asks what is truth?

It is a play that I wish the abomination in the White House

could actually understand.


Like Bohrs and Heisenberg, we step outside,

walk and talk,

try to make some sense of the play,

if not the world around us–


We drink wine and beer—

celebrate my husband’s birthday—

We discuss the play

We laugh.

We’ve been together a long time.

Sometimes our memories are different.

“I’m afraid you’re wrong, dear.”

“The seasons, they go round and round”

But are we captives of time,

or did we create it?


Winter turns to spring,

time travels with light and sound

Do ghosts know the answers?


Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Maybe they reframe their stories.

living them over,

trying to find the right questions to ask,

but as for us,

we live now–

seeing the beauty in a single bloom,

even as it becomes the past,

and our diaries pages jumble and fade,

it lives on in our memories—somewhere—

perhaps twisting and turning like a Lion Dance–

in time and space.


I played around with this, and I suppose it is a sort of Merril Musings Extended Haibun. 🙂  We saw the Lantern Theater Company’s production of Copenhagen. I highly recommend it, but since it was the last performance, you won’t be able to see it.





24 thoughts on “Ghosts and Questions

  1. I love the line; are we captives of time or did we create it?
    I guess, as everything twists and turns, sometimes we are the creators and sometimes the captives! Happy Birthday to your Hubby!!!

  2. As I always say, I love the closeness and celebration of your family life. I had to smile at the way memories of the same thing can be catalogued in each mind in such different ways. And which is true? maybe both, maybe neither.
    No this White House will never acknowledge ambiguity, that there is a valid world that exists outside the inhabitant’s mind, or even a consistent point of view…(K)

  3. It’s easy to see how your mind should go to the White House, but I just can’t imagine any of those deliberations occurring there (for now).
    A birthday AND a New Year celebration. Nice.

  4. Between you and Wuthering Susanne I was meant to think of memory today! So thank you. Happy birthday to your husband! We don’t have Chinese New Year splash here in Phoenix (that I know of), but my son’s best man and his wife dressed their two children in Chinese outfits to celebrate. Seeing the photos really cheered me up!

  5. A belated Happy Birthday to your husband! The play sounds fascinating. Time and memory are so confusing at times, especially as they relate to perception and reality. “Abomination” is an excellent word for that creature.
    Beautiful read, Merril. There’s hope in that single bloom. 🙂

  6. I enjoyed this delightful, delicious climb into the Chinese New Year, Merril. Then, the sad, thought-provoking, downward dip into the period and atmosphere of Copenhagen. The sadness just leavened the “rise” of the bread.
    I will hope the teens marching can accomplish more than the adults’ failure at the November polls!!
    I think you and your husband look so wonderful in your weekly photos. 💕 I love your choices of words to describe the history of your love and marriage. Happy belated birthday, dear Merril’s husband! 🎈 🎂

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