Sick Vines: Studying and Working With Pathogenic People

Vinedisease2012-01-12 at 10.12.46 AM

Diploma’s Unit 2 includes vine disease. Presentation, diagnosis, treatment (if any). From root to leaf, vines can be hit by viruses; phytoplasmas; bacteria; fungi; nematodes; anthropods; and vertebrates. We learn how they’re detected, diagnosed and, if possible, controlled or eradicated.

In the same week of this study, as if by design, a bizarre confrontation with a delusional classmate reminded me how a wine education is less esoteric and arcane than non-wine people might presume, and inhabited by all the same creatures — healthy or pathogenic  — as in the rest of life.

Later, as a liquor store employee, I answered to an odious junior supervisor with a deeply repellant personality, and self-professed daddy issues, that all spoke clearly of mental illness. One ‘gift’ of the fiction writer is a sixth sense for emotional and mental profiles; people give themselves away quickly through action and unintended self-confession. I could joke about a character being as thin and bitter as a bad wine, and it would be employing dark humour for a sober subject.

I don’t poke fun at brain illness; it is no joke. Domesticated vines have farmers and consultants to shepherd them to wellness; whereas the tragic hallmark of mental illness is that affected individuals are most often unable to comprehend their deficits and do not seek help.

As wine students, we learn about the signs of health and disease in the vineyard. Vines fall prey to many harmful and near-invisible things. The wine grower must be beyond vigilant from season to season, and control or eradicate disease when it develops. Alas, not so simple for diseased human brains.

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