Miss Smith and the Water Bears

Every so often a friend gives me a present that makes me realise that I am truly seen. Such was the gift of a small book of postcards called Miss Smith that Margery sent me the other day with a note saying, “This is you darling Allie, although you are far more stylish.”

There are 22 postcards from paintings by Diana Milstein and they are delightful. I particularly identify with the very first one entitled ‘ Miss Smith stands in awe’ and there she is bag in hand, red hat on head, gazing into a world  filled with sand and sea. Or the one where she is bending over a fossil on a pebble beach with the caption ‘This is better than shopping by far.’ Miss Smith was an ordinary woman until her life was touched by a chance encounter with an angel at a bus stop.  Throughout the pages it is the angel, a jolly looking young man with crown and trousers the same colour as Miss Smith’s hat, who encourages her to fly and what adventures she has as she encounters Rothko and Warhol, buys herself a summer dress  and cycles optimistically into spring. I too have been transported into a world of colour and wonder but by a meltdown rather than a young man with wings. Oh how I would have liked to have been encouraged to don a pink dress and taught to dance by a young man with wings! Never mind I got to the same place in the end. A place where life is full of unexpected and curious things, like water bears for example.

Miss Smith would perfectly understand my fascination with water bears, otherwise known as moss piglets. Their rather more boring scientific name is tardigrades. These are  creatures that live on lichen in pavement nooks and crannies and other places too. Able to shivel up and lie low for months, they can survive extreme temperatures (from close to absolute zero to 300 degrees farenheit) and can go a decade without water, though water is their natural habitat. They were named because their tiny eight legged gait is not unlike the amble of the bear. But don’t bother going looking for these cute little creatures, as they measure 0.o5mm in length. Best look at this picture and perhaps watch to the Water Bear Video by Steve Myers on Utube (no I can’t do the links yet!)


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