An unhealthy leaf

diseased arbutus leaf

I was struck by the contrast in colours on this arbutus leaf—the healthy green, the red veins, the unhealthy red-edged dark speckles, like some kind of nasty spot that you discover one day on your arm or leg, generating worries about your future.

(And then of course there’s the dew on it, just to add complications.)

But is the green health? Green is, after all, often associated with illness or poison.  The dark spots are quite mild by comparison. And why are there those violently coloured reddish-pink lines through it?

The oddness of this micro-focused view is that although it is part of a leaf that seems to be diseased, in some ways it’s quite beautiful. I wonder how much disease is beautiful, at a molecular level, when human suffering is stripped out? And what makes it beautiful, anyway? Are there patterns in illness and distress, as there are in other parts of life? I wonder how that affects the way scientists see it?

I wonder if I should have another beer?

Perhaps not.


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