“As it happened I did not grow up to be the kind of woman who is the heroine in a Western, and although the men I have known have had many virtues and have taken me to live in many places I have come to love, they have never been John Wayne, and they have never taken me to that bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.”
– Joan Didion
Since I read these lines of Joan Didion’s in college, I have been looking for my ‘bend in the river where the cottonwoods grow.’ For a host of reasons, Yuba City has been the closest I can imagine coming to this ideal. A mile from my tidy gray stucco home, the Feather river curves gently around Shanghai Bend on its winding journey towards the Sacramento. As in all river bottoms, the cottonwoods are thick. During spring and early summer, they send forth their seeds in tiny cottony rafts which are then borne by the evening breeze to every shrub and lawn in spitting distance. I have loved living amidst this soft summer snow and see why Joan would have idealized it so.
But what about John Wayne? I have found him here too, though not in the way Joan probably imagined. My tidy gray stucco home with its lawn coated in cottonwood seeds, you see, rests on John Wayne Drive. Was the address a determining factor in choosing this house? For me, having sought so literally an interpretation of Didion’s work, it was essential. Living on John Wayne Drive within sight of the bend in the river where the cottonwood grow has been the culmination of a dream I have carried for years. It was a dream realized.