Fun

DIY: Bury Your Secrets

A miniature treasure to keep to yourself or share with a friend.

Let me tell you about the Secrets: a backyard game of unknown origin, a girly ritual passed from mother to daughter. In the second half of the 20th century, girls in Communist Poland would take little trinkets and scraps like candy wrappers, leaves, bits of confetti, and colorful beads and pills and arrange them, like collages or shrines, on pieces of foil, seal their creations under a piece of glass, and bury them underground, where they would be their secret to keep (or to share with a few trusted friends).

The Secrets stood the test of time and made it through the democratic transformation of the early ’90s. Being born into a completely different reality, still I found the tinfoil scraps and heart-shaped cloverleaves alluring. There’s just something mesmerizing about teeny-tiny stuff, you know? The joy of creating a hidden little personal world will never get old. And then burying your treasure in the ground, and trusting the earth to keep your secrets—it feels like you are doing something really ancient, like you’re connecting on a deep level with the teenage girls who came before you. Because, after all, you are.

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Photo of Secrets made in workshops conducted by Magdalena Franczak, from her book Sekrety/Widoczki.

The ground is still frozen here in Poland as I write this, so I’m gonna make my Secret in a tin box, but if you’re lucky enough to live in a warmer place, start looking for a good spot to bury it outside!

How to make a Secret:

1. Gather your objects. Back in the day, kids often used random objects found in their pockets or on the playground to create their Secrets: buttons, beads and bottle caps, but also leaves, feathers and flower petals. The trick was to make something pretty and special out of the trash. Another route is to make your Secret a kind of shrine or hideaway for objects that have personal meaning for you, like photos or friendship bracelets. It’s totally up to you what you put in there!

 description: I’m gonna use some random junk found on my desk: beads, ribbons, cord, buttons, cutouts, seeds, rubber bands, coins, vitamin pills. This should be enough material for at least 50 Secrets!


description: I’m gonna use some random junk found on my desk: beads, ribbons, cord, buttons, cutouts, seeds, rubber bands, coins, vitamin pills. This should be enough material for at least 50 Secrets!

2. Find a backdrop. The girls of postwar Poland saved the tinfoil from chocolate-bar wrappers to use as backdrops for their Secrets. They were shiny and colorful, and had the added bonus of protecting the Secret from moisture in the soil, and thus delaying its inevitable decay. You can do the same, or use colored foil or a piece of pretty cloth.

Ordinary paper cutouts will resist moisture if you cover them with transparent adhesive tape on both sides.

Ordinary paper cutouts will resist moisture if you cover them with transparent adhesive tape on both sides.

3. Find a transparent cover. Original Secret-makers would most likely hide behind a wall and smash an empty bottle to make a cover for a Secret out of the round glass bottom. I probably shouldn’t even mention this method, lest you try it at home—which would be dangerous for you and any random passersby, so please find a different source for your round pieces of glass or plastic. A small lid or lens will work great.

I wrapped a bottle tight in a cloth and hit it with a hammer to get my cover. (But I’m a grownup and allowed to take risky actions)

I wrapped a bottle tight in a cloth and hit it with a hammer to get my cover. (But I’m a grown-up and allowed to do stupid, risky things.)

4. Scout a location. Ideally some earthy spot that’s hard to discover but easy to find if you know where you’re looking: e.g., a quiet, secluded corner of a backyard or a playground.

My Secret-making instructors—my mum, my aunt, and my older sister—back in the day. They hunted for good Secret-burial spots along roadsides and riverbanks, on beaches, in gardens, meadows, fields, and wood.

My Secret-making instructors—my mum, my aunt, and my older sister—back in the day. They hunted for good Secret-burial spots along roadsides and riverbanks, on beaches, in gardens, meadows, fields, and wood.

5. Construct your Secret:
• Dig a shallow hole (2-3 inches deep), slightly wider than the diameter of your transparent cover.

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• Put your background on the bottom of the hole and arrange your chosen objects on top of it, like a collage.

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• Cover the composition with the plastic or glass.

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  • Gently refill the hole with soil. Press the ground softly to even out the surface.

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6. Optional: share your Secret. It’s fun to make a special Secret for a friend, choosing objects that symbolize your bond with each other. Then you can mark the burial spot with a pebble or a pair of crossed sticks, and give your friend a map to this hidden treasure. When uncovering a Secret, be careful. Pretend you’re an archeologist—move away thin layers of soil gently, with a flat palm. It’s easy to wreck a Secret by trying to dig it out too quickly. (Doesn’t every single thing I say here sound like it has a secret double meaning? EVEN WHAT I AM SAYING RIGHT NOW? That’s because it does—that’s the nature of Secrets, and of secrets.)

A portable Secret in a tin box makes a good present for a friend.

A portable Secret in a tin box makes a good present for a friend.

I’ve never been able to find any of the Secrets I’ve buried. But it doesn’t really matter—the risk of losing your artwork is part of the game (and my pockets are always full of candy wrappers). Maybe they’d all been ruined—washed away by rain or stomped on by unknowing feet—or maybe they’d just decomposed by the time I tried to find them. But I like to think I just hid them too well, and that they’re still they’re, hiding just a couple of inches under my feet, like a private map of my hometown.
.

More of my Secrets!

More of my Secrets!

38 Comments

  • Mnz18 April 16th, 2013 7:25 PM

    So happy ROOKIE posted something like this…..THis actually reminds me when I was a little girl. I actually buried my toys as well as some paper with my friends in the dirt…….I’m not sure because I can’t quite remember but I believe we found it later after five years. We went back ( me and my friends) to the same spot which was under a tree and we eventually found the box. We opened it but the paper and toys that we put inside did got rotten …….Oh well : D but glad we found it

  • Marian April 16th, 2013 7:38 PM

    When I was younger I used to write journal entries, cover them in glitter, and bury them under a tree in my Grandmother’s backyard. This article reminds me of doing that.

  • la fee clochette April 16th, 2013 7:39 PM

    YES!

  • taste test April 16th, 2013 7:41 PM

    this is amazing! it reminds me of when I was little and would unearth things in my grandmother’s backyard. a kid (probably a boy) who liked playing in the dirt had lived there before, and my grandmother and I found several rusty old metal matchbox cars and toy airplanes in her garden. I still have one of the airplanes. I should try to find out when it’s from when I get home. anyway. burying things is cool, digging things up is cool, and I really like this idea.

  • Hannah April 16th, 2013 8:03 PM

    These are beautiful and have such a great story and ugh these are the reasons I love Rookie.

  • kolumbia April 16th, 2013 8:58 PM

    I love this!! It’s a craft idea and history lesson all in one!

    On an unrelated note, I’m working on a short story that goes with the Age of Innocence theme. Is it too late to send it?

  • TessAnnesley April 16th, 2013 8:59 PM

    This is so so so so so so so incredibly beautiful, thank you so much for sharing it with us!

  • K8 is Gr8 April 16th, 2013 9:53 PM

    Love love love! This seems like so much fun! Kinda like a time capsule but more personal, and with a *fantastic* history behind it! I’m studying WWII in history right now, so this is pretty cool!

  • RedInk April 16th, 2013 9:58 PM

    I love how a simple DIY can connect me to girls from over 50 years ago. No wonder I love Rookie.
    http://mittentesluna.blogspot.com/

  • umi April 16th, 2013 10:38 PM

    this is so cool! I’m gonna ask my grandmother about this….Polish girls represent (i can still say that even though I’m half Polish, right?)

    • umi April 16th, 2013 10:41 PM

      oh oh, i have this tiny altoids box that i’ve been trying to figure out what to do with and now i have something AND it connects me to my heritage isnt it swell

    • Emma Dajska April 17th, 2013 3:51 AM

      Of course you can! :)
      It’s possible that your grandmother haven’t heard of this game. It was popular when my mum was a kid and as far as I know it kind of “appeared out of nowhere” in the sixties- my grandma didn’t know it as a kid.

      • umi April 18th, 2013 9:50 PM

        I emailed this to my mom and she said she used to do this because she saw the older kids doing it.She’d take flowers and alread broken glass and leave them on the sidewalk for people to see!!

  • meganjanie April 16th, 2013 10:52 PM

    I can’t wait to try this, and I might smash a bottle, but I’m technically a grownup, so it’s cool.

  • Special_Snowflake April 16th, 2013 10:53 PM

    Slicznie :)
    Najbardziej mi sie podoba ten ostatni po prawej <3

  • Tara A. April 16th, 2013 11:36 PM

    Emma, your DIY’s are always so amazing! This is so gorgeous! I love how this has history behind it, it just makes it all the more interesting. I cannot wait to try this.

    http://www.unlockingpandorasbox.blogspot.com

  • kathryn-s April 17th, 2013 12:16 AM

    This is so cool. Reminds me a bit of the Exploration theme! (Which I think has actually been one of my favorite themes so far!)

  • Kamila April 17th, 2013 12:29 AM

    I’m from Poland and I did that when I was little! So many memories! I actually dug up most of my “secrets” the moment I buried them just to make sure they were there…

  • Alexis April 17th, 2013 1:03 AM

    Sooooo when I was in grade school my 2 friends and I were obsessed with the movie “Crossroads” starring Britney Spears. In the beginning the 3 friends make this time capsule and bury it and vow to dig it up on prom night even though they end up not being friends anymore.

    ANYWAY my friends and I did that but then we never found ours :( SO SAD. this reminded me of it.

  • Jessica W April 17th, 2013 1:18 AM

    Yes yes yes! I did this dozens of times as a child. I buried all my favourite jewellery and gel pens for some reason (durr)

    The Lovelorn

  • Yazmine April 17th, 2013 2:11 AM

    This is literally the coolest thing ever! I can’t wait to try this x

    http://www.fashionandfringes@blogspot.com.au

  • Cactus Woman April 17th, 2013 3:58 AM

    Wow. I had no idea this existed…but it makes so much sense. I will definitely do this!!!

  • MaddieMae April 17th, 2013 7:58 AM

    Wow, I’d never even heard of this! I’m going to be making these when summer starts, and I get out of school :)

  • Sunshine April 17th, 2013 10:23 AM

    This is such a cute idea! :D

  • J. April 17th, 2013 12:13 PM

    Wow, I’m from Poland and I’ve never heard of that, it’s such a pity, cause I find the whole idea really adorable…

  • Mary the freak April 17th, 2013 12:40 PM

    Ohmygawd! This is so cute and adorable!
    As a child, I used to have a box full of little treasures and things that meant a lot to me. But I don’t know where it is now. I like the thought that someone found it and thought of a little story behind it.

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • Rebus April 17th, 2013 12:49 PM

    Wow, it’s awesome! I will try this out soon

    by the way, there is a hungarian coin in the second photo, isn’t there? I got soo excited when I spotted that out, got kinda proud! =D Seeing my nation’s coin here.. priceless =)

    • Emma Dajska April 17th, 2013 1:38 PM

      Wow, ten points for observation skills! I was teaching comic worshops in Budapest this winter and went back home with a handful of forints with cute little animals and plants on the reverse.

  • flocha April 17th, 2013 2:37 PM

    This is so beautiful

  • Emma April 17th, 2013 6:23 PM

    this reminds me of when me and my friend buried some little trinkets in a shoe box in my backyard when I was ten. (we had just seen the britney spears movie crossroads :L ) We ended up digging it up a week later… turns out cardboard is not mud resistant :/

  • Saana V April 18th, 2013 10:15 AM

    when i was a kid i collected a lot of shiny stuff and rocks and bottle caps and buried them with my best friend as a treasure. We drew bad maps and tried to find them few weeks later (usually it was like, few days later because it was great to find treasures)
    This article reminded me of it and i might do that again, but with my diary entries and important stuff. And I will bury some secrets while burying my treasure.

  • mayaautumn April 18th, 2013 3:05 PM

    This is the coolest thing. makes me long for summer even more so… that sense of adventure and discovery.

    http://mayathapapaya.wordpress.com

  • ArmyOfRabbits April 19th, 2013 3:13 PM

    Thanks for this lovely article! If I ever have children or babysit my brother’s future kids, I will show them this! Perhaps, I’ll just do some on my own. :) Might be perfect for geocaching.

  • ArmyOfRabbits April 19th, 2013 3:15 PM

    *Spoilers*

    This also remind me of the scene in Amelie where she finds a box full of collections made by a young boy who grew up in the 50s.

  • elyse. April 20th, 2013 9:40 AM

    I think I might try this! I’m always looking for cute crafts to pass the time. Plus, it reminds me of when I was very little. Thanks Rookie!

  • Pashupati April 23rd, 2013 2:01 PM

    You can still get your cover from a bottle without smashing it. I couldn’t find the tutorial I read once, but here is a video that’s more or less the same thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vILNflmwFw (spin by the other end)
    Ask someone to watch for/help you or even do it in your place and don’t do that in your living room or bedroom. Do that over a sink in which you have a bucket of cold water or water+ice.
    Don’t do that if you have a tendency to drop things. BE CAREFUL.

  • Gemma Winter April 28th, 2013 6:54 PM

    SO.COOL.n ydrjghzsdruighzsdru

  • Kelsey May 5th, 2013 1:12 AM

    Aaah this is so lovely and totally what I need right now. A boy just recently broke up with me and is now telling me he hates me (it’s an odd situation, really), and the last thing he gave me was a small, red plastic heart… I think I’ll bury it where we first kissed.