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The lichen

Have you ever thought that you were so different from your partner, lover, boyfriend or girlfriend that you were perhaps incompatible?

That's what happened to me this afternoon when I was walking in the forest with two friends.

As I was listing all the things that made my boyfriend and me different, all the obstacles that this brought to our relationship and our everyday lives, my friend stopped me and pointed to a spot on a tree. My friend then told me that what she was showing me was lichen and asked me if I knew the story behind it. As I had no idea, I replied "no".

She then began to tell me:

"These days you can find lichen everywhere, in all shapes and colours! You see it so often that you forget it's one of the oldest terrestrial organisms on the planet. When the planet was created, most of it was ocean with marine organisms, and there was no rock or soil. It was the lichen that gave us soil. And how did this happen? It's a wonderful story of symbiosis and mutual aid! The lichen is an organism that is basically a fungus, but it joined forces with algae in order to survive because it didn't have anything to eat - there were no plants in those days. It needed the energy it got from the photosynthesis of the algae to live. The algae agreed to collaborate because it would not have been able to settle on the land without something to anchor itself to the ground, as algae have no roots, which is what the fungus provided.  

Together they symbolise a magnificent union. A magnificent symbiosis in which the complementarity and differences of each play an incredible role for each other and also for others. The collaboration of the fungus and the algae, which is the lichen, by clinging to rocks and breaking them up, gave rise to the soil as we know it today. This process took millions of years of patience and hand-in-hand cooperation for the first plants to arrive."

She stopped there, leaving me in complete awe of this lichen. Amazed I was thinking: what if it could be the same in a love relationship? What if the differences could allow each person to nourish the other and create a symbiosis from which something could emerge beyond the two individualities while respecting and honouring each other's specificities? And what if, instead of seeing differences as a threat and trying to erase them for the benefit of one or the other, they became a source of richness for the benefit of a shared vision, a common soil?

These questions are still with me, without having found a concrete answer for the moment, but the lichen has helped me to realise that differences within a relationship can be a strength, something to be cherished rather than erased and that in time they can allow something as magnificent as the soil of our planet to emerge.

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