Crescent Blood Moon Eclipse

There is magic in this world. I am sure of it. I have seen it. And I will tell you about it.

But first, I need to tell you about a tattoo of mine. I have a tattoo on my rib cage, on the left side of my body; it’s two mountain ranges separated by water. In the foreground, there’s a desert with all different types of cacti. In the background, it is dusk, and the moon is rising. It’s a blood moon. Well, it’s a crescent blood moon… which supposedly does not exist.

In fact, in the middle of tattooing me, the artist stopped and said, “Oops!” — which is never something you want to hear a tattoo artist say when they are working on you. “I just realized that blood moons only happen on full moons. Oh well,” she shrugged.

“Oh well!” I said, but inside I was freaking out. I calmed myself by thinking, “Whatever, this is still an upgrade.” Because this tattoo was a cover-up for a tattoo I had grown to hate.

When I was nineteen, I got Jason Mraz lyrics tattooed on my ribcage. Corny? Yes. But that wasn’t what irked me about the tattoo. I still love the lyrics, which are:

You can turn off the sun,

But I’m still gonna shine.

The lyrics are corny, but I love the sentiment. If you know me, you know how fitting it is to my personality. I’m mostly an ever-optimist. I get angry and frustrated and I have my moments of pessimism. But I always find a silver lining to any situation I’m facing, and I know no better medicine than laughter.

The lyrics are from a song called The Remedy (I Won’t Worry), which has a bridge that I love to sing. Mraz belts out:

When I fall in love,

I take my time.

There’s no need to hurry

when I’m making up my mind.

You can turn off the sun,

But I’m still gonna shine,

and I’ll tell you why.

Queue the chorus! IIIIIIIIIII, I WON’T WORRY MY LIFE AWAY!

Anyway, the point is, it wasn’t the lyrics that made me want to cover up the tattoo. The main problem was that I had poorly translated the lyrics into Spanish, because my nineteen-year-old self was hugely self-conscious about having Jason Mraz lyrics on my rib cage. I thought if they were written in Spanish it would look cooler. Then I dated a guy from Peru.

Some people get tattoos and fall in love with them instantly. With the Jason Mraz tattoo, I knew I made a mistake instantly. I woke up in the middle of the night, walked to the mirror, lifted up my shirt, and thought, “fuck, what did I just do?”

My reaction to my cover-up tattoo was neither instant love nor instant hate. I think the artist is incredibly talented and that the design and colors of the tattoo are stunning. However, even though it was a definitive upgrade from the poorly-translated-Jason-Mraz-lyrics tattoo, there were parts of the new tattoo that I was unsure about.

I remember showing the tattoo to a friend, and she asked me, “Where is that?” And I thought, “Fuck, I don’t know.” I don’t know anywhere where the mountains are separated by water, near a desert. And crescent blood moons don’t exist.

I eventually grew to love my tattoo. When people asked me where the scene was from, I answered, “It’s in my imagination,” which felt good enough for me.

After I was diagnosed with cancer, though, I went through a whole new stage of regret over this tattoo. Doctors found a tumor inside of a muscle located just above the tattoo. What if the ink was toxic, and the toxins got into my bloodstream and caused it?

In truth, I was just grasping for an answer. Doctors told me early on that my type of cancer was not genetic and it was not a product of my environment. Which left me wondering why the fuck this happened to me.

It was one of the many questions that I knew would never be answered. I often wonder when cells in my body started mutating. How long had I had cancer before we found it? I will look back at old pictures of me hiking or climbing or smiling with friends and I will wonder, did I have cancer then?

I don’t know why I ask these questions or what the answer would help with. But I still wonder.

Surgery was required to remove the tumor from my body, and there was a good chance that surgery would compromise my mountain tattoo. I talked to four different surgeons who told me four different ways they would execute the surgery. My mountain tattoo came up in every conversation. One surgeon told me they would need to cut directly through the tattoo, which I tried to make clear was perfectly ok, but it was comforting to see how much everyone wanted to make me feel as cared for as possible — even if that just meant not altering my tattoo.

The surgeon I chose did not cut through the tattoo for surgery, though I swear that is not why I chose him. He did operate very close to the tattoo, though; it is almost impossible now to see the tattoo and not see my scars from surgery.

The scar from the incision is an inch and a half above the crescent blood moon. The scar from the drain that was in my body for ten days after surgery is an inch to the left of the crescent blood moon.

It’s taken me some time to get used to my new scars, in the same way it took me some time to get used to my tattoo. I love my scars now, though. They symbolize survival.

So, returning to this talk of magic.

When I moved back to San Francisco after treatment, I couldn’t wait to go camping again. Part of why I love Northern California is its proximity to awe-inspiring wilderness. Whenever I’m in nature, I feel like I’m witnessing magic. From the blues in a glacial lake to the delicate curls of new ferns to the regality of gigantic granite spires, mother nature always astounds me.

But on my first camping trip back to California, I saw actual magic.

My friend Simone and I drove to Los Padres National Forest, which is south of Big Sur. We picked up takeout on the way, drove an hour into the mountains on forest roads, and settled into our favorite car camping spot. We threw open my hatchback, danced during the sunset, and slurped down noodles while we watched a crescent moon rise.

The moon was gorgeous. Bright and clear and stunning, casting a white light over the ocean while the sky faded from pastels to black.

We finally climbed into the back of my car and got ready for bed. And then I looked up at the moon.

“Holy shit!,” I shouted. “The moon is red! The moon is bright red! The moon is blood red! Simone! Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

Simone sat up and confirmed the moon was indeed red. Confirmed we were witnessing the impossible: a crescent blood moon.

Not only did we see a crescent blood moon, but we also watched the moon disappear. In a matter of two minutes, in a manner just like an eclipse, the moon disappeared.

Simone and I were losing our shit. We couldn’t understand what we had just seen. There was no one around for miles, and we didn’t have any service. All we could do was wait. We did ask one couple we ran into the next day if they’d seen the moon. They had not.

We stayed in the forest for another day and night, and when we finally got back to service, the first thing we did was scour the Internet for any mention of a crescent blood moon eclipse. I searched: crescent blood moon. Nothing. I searched: blood moon. Nothing. I searched: crescent moon eclipse. Nothing. And absolutely nothing came up when I searched for crescent blood moon eclipse. Except… exactly 78 years in the future from when we saw the crescent blood moon eclipse, there will be a full blood moon eclipse perfectly visible from Los Padres National Forest.

So, either we traveled to the future, or… or? We witnessed magic.

I told a handful of friends what I had seen, and to my surprise, no one believed me.

Almost everyone asked if I was on psychedelics. I was not. People came up with explanations like, it was the clouds that caused the change in color or the clouds that made it look like the moon was disappearing. But the sky was perfectly clear. Not a cloud in sight.

Without a clear-cut explanation, everyone wrote my story off. I know one person believed me, but she said, “I can’t believe you don’t need to find an answer.”

That’s when it started to make sense to me. She was right, I didn’t need an answer. I saw what I saw, and I can’t explain it. I don’t need to explain it. Looking for an answer is one of the many ways we seek control in our lives. Knowing makes us feel steady and powerful. It allows us to avoid uncertainty.

But the reality is that so many questions will never have an answer. I will never know when cells started mutating in my body. I will never know how my life would be different if we had caught the cancer earlier. I will never know what caused the crescent blood moon eclipse that I saw in Los Padres National Forest.

And that’s okay. Sometimes, not knowing is a blessing. I now know I had cancer when I went on countless backpacking trips in 2020. I had cancer when I went rock climbing in Mexico. I had cancer when I made a huge career change and moved to a new apartment by the ocean and learned to surf. I didn’t know it at the time, but not knowing didn’t slow me down.

Not knowing makes room for infinite possibilities. Not knowing made room for the divine closing of a storyline that started with an accidental crescent blood moon tattoo, evolved into a much-needed light-hearted conversation piece with my doctors, and ended with a magic show meant just for Simone and I. Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t really care to know.

I think when we let go of needing to know the answer to everything, we make room for magic.

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Elizabeth Fernandes

Elizabeth Fernandes

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