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Macular Degeneration

Margaret Moores


On waking, and after turning on her light, my mother saw bright chrysanthemums of colour which persisted long after she had pulled the curtains. This was a sign; although she did not know that then. At the time, her paintings were bright swirls of translucent wash over detailed pen and ink. After an incident she thought was sunstrike, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. It can be genetic; although her grandparents read the Bible into their eighties. The macula is behind the lens near the centre of the retina and is required for sharp central vision. It became hard to gauge how far her brush was from the paper and then more difficulties arose. The retina contains rods and cones which are sensitive to light and colour. Green began to fade to brown. This might be overcome with a limited palette; memory distinguishing between viridian and ochre. Perhaps the grandparents had memorised their Bible passages. I ask my mother to name the people in the albums while she can still see. Nothing can be done for some kinds of macular degeneration, just as nothing could be done for her mother, Ida, in 1932 when she was a young woman with two small children and ill with pneumonia. Wanganui Hospital: a fountain, a statue, a garden seat. A boy and a girl among autumn leaves and long shadows. There were no antibiotics. I ask my mother who the children are. Green grass, brown leaves, blue sky all fading in black and white. It seems that the photographs can be dated by death; first mother and child, then children alone.


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