A slow reading, movement meditation, a walk-through
Why a lichen-eating reindeer is part of the composite body of lichen and even more so as the boreal forests in which lichens grow and being clear-cut for paper pulp, exposing people as the sociopathic component of the forest/reindeer/fungi/algae/human holobiont) as one of the Inalienable Practices
by Robert Kocik
We could be selectively de-selected. What we think we eat, we are being eaten by.
Begin an all-inclusive listening. Include all unarising sounds. Inhale all around, breathing through your skin, bringing the breath into your bones, and exhale the breath even further and furthest and evenly into every one of your bones.
Lichen is a symbiotic organism, a composite of a fungus and an alga/or/cyanobacterium. The fungal symbiont provides structure and anchorage while the alga, the photosynthesizing symbiont, provides the food that fungi are unable to make for themselves. Fungi farm algae.
Fungus is neither plant nor animal, having diverged more than a billion years ago. Fungi grow as cylindrical threads branching from their tips into interconnected networks. Their growth can exert a mechanical force of 1200 pounds per square inch. Algae are autotrophs, not heterotrophs: producers not consumers of food. There’s no commonly accepted definition of “algae.” Algae are basically chlorophyll molecules specifically arranged around a photosystem whose core is an energy reactor.
It has proven impossible to grow lichen artificially, in a laboratory. The two would-be partners (fungus and algae/cyanobacterium) don’t socialize. Consider the phrase “impossible to carry out under laboratory conditions” as a definition of “life” and a domain of artwork. Artists becoming raw data by becoming indivisible from evolutionary selection as it happens.
Start in a position of active stillness or potential movement; not static, not flat on your back or seated as usual.
There are movements that correspond with all-inclusive listening.
Gradually assume the position of the formative space between fungi and algae by including both of their functions.
More gradually become the movement of lichen growing, growing at a rate of about one millimeter per year, and being counted among the oldest living beings.
Lichens grow in inhospitable zones; on bare rock, dead wood, exposed bone, rusted metal, plastic or living bark.
Lichen doesn’t move, it’s not mobile; growing is its movement. It can be broken off and carried elsewhere.
Move, lichen-like, as a mutual benefitting whole. Gradually dissolve who is benefitting whom.
The entire body of a lichen is called a “thallus.” For a thallus, there is no organization of tissues into organs. As a whole, the thallus is a remarkably different morphology in relation to either fungus or algae taken alone.
Lichens are miniature ecosystems, producing many hundreds of biochemical compounds.
Most lichens make antibiotics.
Apaches painted lichen on their feet in order to become invisible to their enemies. The Achomawi poisoned their arrowheads with the same lichen. The Blackfoot people drank it as medicinal tea.
Lichen has been baked into bread and used as perfume.
It’s impossible to “date” a lichen because we can’t discern when it would have started to grow together from supposedly separate parts. In fact, the fungi associated with lichen are not found alone in nature.
Lichens include many microorganisms other than the primary fungus/algae partnership. These other organisms are called “xenobionts”—rather like the microbiota lining our gut and covering our skin.
Though there are no “others.” No “xeno,” no “foreign.”
Move in a way that makes alien unimaginable.
There is no “hosting” on the part of one for another.
Lichens are the critical winter food of reindeer. Reindeer are ruminants with a specialized stomach for breaking lichen down into nutrients.
Reindeer develop as part of the lichen hologenomic community. Evolution has selected this interspecies holobiont since the last ice age.
From the land of the reindeer, there’s a Saami song known as a yoik. It has no “subject” because it is its subject. It’s not about a person, place or thing because it is the body and being of that person, place or thing. Anything it would be about, it has become. It’s mistaken to ask whether it has a beginning or end. It is nature, which is unknowable because it is innate. It’s not a circle or a cycle. It has depthsymmetry; neither a beginning nor end nor beginningless/endless.
Lichen-life is being what the other needs, as movement. To be lichen-like is to be what the other needs, by not doing anything to be so.
We come here to hear from each other what we need to hear to stay alive.