Bring on the rain. 

The forecast was predicting rain, not much, but rain. A long stretch of the Soulajule Reservoir runs through our family ranch, and is currently the lowest it has been since it was built in 1979. The Soule is one of the reservoirs run by Marin Municipal Water District; this year was the first time in decades that it was tapped for public consumption. I had been telling myself for weeks that I was going to walk the bottom before it rained. I needed to see what I will hopefully never see again. 

With rain pending in the next few hours, my dog and I headed out. Standing on the road above was chilling: I have never been unable to see water from our line fence. All that can be seen now is a vast dry lakebed, no ducks, no pelicans, no ospreys, no otters. Where typically you see water over 300 feet wide, now you see the old creek bed. The soil that was beneath the water has dried, cracked and created a million pillars. They range in size from 4 inches to more than 18 inches in diameter. They are anywhere from 6 inches to nearly 3 feet tall. A million steppingstones laid out like a giant maze. My goal was to find the water’s edge, and these pillars were not going to stop me from doing it. 

The first 100 yards were frustrating, to say the least. A tunnel-vision focus on which pilar to take next was suddenly the most important part of the trip. Some pillars were strong, where others crumbled beneath my feet. Looking away from the maze might cause you to take a bad step and tumble or twist an ankle. Left foot, right foot, we kept along. The pillars displayed the petrified footprints of every critter you could imagine. 

About a mile into this, I stopped. As I looked in all directions, it hit me: I don’t know how much further the water is. I am standing on a pillar in a place I have never stood before, and the life metaphor hits me. I am surrounded by choices. Some stable, some questionable, some that will take me to a bluff and some that will take me to my goal. I am surrounded by my choices, and I am the only one who can choose the next pillar. The moment was cathartic.

A sprinkle hits my hand, and boom: The game has changed. We have not made it to the water, but if the rain comes now, every single one of these pillars will become slick as grease. Every one will become treacherous and I will fall dozens of times on the way home. I can go for the high ground and hills, but no matter which direction I choose, I have to take pillars to get there. My dog stares at me, wondering why we stopped. I look at him and say, “We better fly if we’re gonna make it, buddy.” Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. 

Another half mile and we make it to the edge of the water. We make it to what this drought, this year, has left us with. We make it to an understanding that there are millions of choices that keep compounding as the water recedes. An understanding that as these challenging few years tread on and leave us with so many tough choices, the only person who can choose the next pillar is yourself. And an understanding that choosing the wrong pillar is okay, because there are so many more to choose from.  So, bring on the rain. 

Maria Ghisletta is a rancher and land surveyor-in-training. She lives in Hicks Valley.