If there’s one thing my husband and I do well together other than making a baby, it’s hiking. It’s a beautiful day and it’s been a hard week (year) so no more waiting for mother-in-law to find time to babysit, we’re going to take Dakota with us in a baby backpack, and finally hike the Rift Valley trail.

The Rift Valley loop trail is 10.3 miles of mostly flat, tight, winding single track through sagebrush and small juniper trees, at one point overlooking the Rio Grande Gorge and Rift Valley. There’s a wide open view of the Sangre de Cristo mountains and the Mesa. It is one of only two places in the world hikers and bikers can witness a rift valley (the other one is in Africa). 

On the trail Duke almost rubs noses with a western diamondback rattlesnake. It sends a warning rattle in the air and we call Duke back and make a twenty foot radius detour around the snake’s nesting spot under a giant sage. 

I tiptoe back to take a picture and he hisses at me ominously with a long slender black forked tongue and I take a picture and sort of hop away.

The Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) is a heavy bodied snake with a triangular shaped head and is sometimes confused with Mojave green rattlesnakes. It has dark diamond-shaped patterns running down its back. The tail (which was hard for me to see) has black and white bands just above the rattles.  It likes to eat everything from jackrabbits and prairie dogs to lizards and burrowing owls, and is responsible for the greatest number of human snakebites in the U.S. It’s also in the top ten most venomous snakes of North America, along with coral snakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and a few other species of rattlers. In other words, they are not to be tinkered with, even with a stick and some soothing Spotify music. 

Its venom contains proteolytic enzymes to destabilize its prey, and cytotoxins and myotoxins which destroy cells and muscles, adding to the failure of the cardiovascular system. Side effects of a snakebite include bleeding, nausea and severe systemic damage and muscle swelling. Severe envenomation is rare but lethal.

However, some healers, shamans, and mediums believe that when a Western Diamondback crosses your path, it’s a message that, whatever we put out into the universe we should be mindful of, and to keep in mind that every action we make in life has a reflective mirror to send or boomerang its energy back to us, for us to see the error of our ways (karma, essentially what my mother-in-law’s shaman said- days before we married- would embody every aspect of my “difficult” marriage). 

“If you have not brought harm to others, you have no reason to fear. If you have, it is time to take note that some part of your life will come to an end as a result, whether this is a chapter or project,” says Egyptian healer Quornesha. “The rattlesnake appearing before you is a message that, you are aware of some unforeseen or hidden dangers and you have avoided them with dignity and grace, and is a message that as your reward, you will receive some good fortunes that are to enter your life immediately.”

Every time I think of joyful Karma I don’t think of Hinduism or Buddhism or Quornesha the healer, but rather the octopus in Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. The Octopus, Karma, was a replacement for the Octopus Kali, who had died. In Hinduism, “Karma” a path toward Brahman- the highest god or Universal Self. In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, it’s not fate but rather choice. It’s conscious action. 

So an Octopus trainer decided to move Kali and Kali died, and he ended up with “Karma”. I chose to marry and have Dakota and I ended up in Taos. Here I am- I chose this- and I’m ready to do something about it. 

To begin with, no more going in circles. Instead of the full 10.3 Rift Valley loop, we turn around at Escapement trail (I keep calling it Escargot for some reason) from a Rio Grande overlook, and end up hiking about 6 miles total, the longest hike we’ve accomplished with Dakota in tow. I spent the rest of the hike scouring the ground for temperamental rattlers and some good fortunes. Dakota is thrilled the whole time. Wide-eyed and glowing with anticipation of the next field of sagebrush and paintbrush, or winding trail around an arroyo (dry creek bed).

Monday is our one year wedding anniversary. Nobody calls to congratulate us because there’s nothing to congratulate. Charley is in the other room sleeping. An email pops up with a response to a post I made seven months ago in an abuse discussion site. It reminded me of what I’ve been through and what I’m leaving.

I already feel in my bones: there is a new chapter starting and it will be a good one. I’ve been through the Karma. I’ve looked in the mirror. It’s time for release and renewal. I’m almost ready to stop pining over the idea of the man I fell in love with, and accept the reality of the man behind the idea. I don’t look at today as the celebration of a year of marriage but rather as the celebration of myself and a turning point for something else.