Burned scrolls and cryptography

burned scroll
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry

Today was so beautiful for me because for the first time since late March I was able to get up, make breakfast, and be mentally and emotionally present. I could not only take care of myself, I had some oomph left over.

Jo Spanglemonkey and her kids came over along with Nukie from next door and for a while, young Peanut.

The younger kids played without fighting, very peacefully, while 11-year old Eliz. and I read a book I had in the mid-70s, How to Write Codes and Send Secret Messages. It is just right for a 7 year old — or any smart younger kid who can read an early chapter book. Moomin and I had been reading it in the morning!

We made clues for a treasure hunt in “Greek code” which is a message written on a long strip of paper spiralled around a dowel; in lemon juice invisible ink then heated up with candles; in long messages full of nonsense that became clear when you hold a “mask” over it that shows only a few key words — and others — It was a fine project that took hours and that I enjoyed a lot.

At some point we played around with making a cool-looking scroll. We tore all the edges of the paper. Then I wrote a message in runes with a Sharpie, but you could do this much better by writing with a real ink pen. We soaked the paper in coffee, dabbing balsamic vinegar and ketchup on it in places for a blotchy darkened effect, and put the paper in the toaster oven straight on the rack. I think it baked for a minute or so, and came out beautifully brittle and old-looking. Eliz. was very happy to use a candle to scorch the edges.

When I did this before, I rolled up the scroll before baking it. So when it was unrolled it fell apart and had to be pieced together! The longer you bake it, the more brittle it will be, though this also depends on what kind of paper you use.

I think a very nice effect could be achieved with “vellum” semi-transparent paper! Oh, also, lemon juice ink with a toothpick pen looks just like writing in blood.

After all this I laid down for a while and then cleaned up (mostly). I didn’t do anything else with my day, but this was enough, don’t you think?

I can walk around the house now and out in the yard, pretty well, without a cane but still limping. After about an hour “up” I have to lie down. I’m unsure of myself still in public places especially unfamiliar ones, or crowded ones, or ones where I have to be for a long time without lying down, so for now I am still in the wheelchair a fair amount.

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13 Responses to Burned scrolls and cryptography

  1. shauna says:

    Just found your blog, and am already enjoying it. What a cool thing to do. My 6-year old son would blissfully adore me if I spent an entire day creating coded messages. I'll have to give it a go.

  2. Jo says:

    Thanks, that was really a fun day, especially for Eliz.

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