Homeless in Sedona: Mother Nature’s Son

After a visit to northern Arizona to spend time with my brother, who lives in a lean-to along a creek, and a few chance meetings with other boomers who are barely scraping by, I thought I would inform you about one I know very well.

John Carter 2003 with guitar

My brother’s case is the most extreme that I personally know of, because he is basically homeless, but in his case he is also happy. He moved south from Durango six years ago with no particular destination, and ended up camping along Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona, Arizona. His family had no idea where he was for three years, until he got in trouble with the Forest Service, and a kind ranger suggested he should give us a call. When I visited him recently he told me the whole story.

Within a week after arriving in Sedona, he found some construction work, but he also had his sleeping bag stolen. The head of his construction company bought him a new one, no questions asked. He has found nothing but helpful people in this city full of millionaires and those that serve them. Someone is always willing to help him out, and the best part for him is living in nature.

He is now on private land and providing a type of care-taking along the creek. We discovered quickly that getting down to the creek is no small accomplishment. The trail is quite steep with parts of it roped to help with some rocky footing. After you make it down there, the next challenge is fording Oak Creek, scary for me, but Mike went over to see John’s camp. He lives in a wood-framed tarp lean-to with a solar-powered lantern and wind-up radio.

His favorite pastime is sitting outside playing his guitar. He is an accomplished singer and songwriter. I wish more people could hear his music. Here’s a sample on YouTube. I have a CD of his mostly instrumental creations if anyone would like one. He picks up extra money playing in the coffee shops and bars in Sedona.

I have never met a person who so loves living in nature. Everyone in our family enjoys solitude and nature. My Dad is a botanist and naturalist, and we were raised camping out more than most, but John is willing to put up with snakes in his sleeping bag and scorpions in his lean-to to continue in his chosen lifestyle. He recently started receiving Social Security, but still chooses to live outside. Besides, he could never afford the rents in Sedona!

How many more years will he be able to make it down that steep hill and across the creek? Mother nature’s son doesn’t appear to be worried…

15 thoughts on “Homeless in Sedona: Mother Nature’s Son

  1. I think this is heartbreaking and you are so right he will not be able to live in those conditions much longer.
    My husband brought home an 80yr old homeless woman, a stranger. She lived with us for 2 1/2 years. #thestrangerinmyrecliner


  2. Yes Doreen, my mother finds this heartbreaking, but I found a man with self-respect and a very good attitude when I spent time with him last week. I am surprised that he lives near such an expensive city, but his friends are tremendously generous!


  3. Hi Laura Lee! I so appreciate this post because it reminds me (and all of us really) that our own definition of happiness and wellbeing doesn’t fit the same as everyone else. We all tend to see others and think they think like us and want the same exact things but your brother is an excellent example of pure happiness in the moment right where he is. I have a sister who isn’t quite in the same situation but close in my mind. I used to want to try to “fix” things for her but that is not what she wants. Gradually I have come to understand that she is happy the way she is and if there is a problem–it’s with me! Sure the future is uncertain, but then it is for most people and most things. For my sister and your brother I hold out that things will work out perfectly and they will stay happy as long as they live. ~Kathy


  4. Exactly Kathy. I’m sorry my parents feel so bad about him, but I enjoy his company and need to believe him when he says, “This works for me.” Life can be difficult for every single person at times. We all need to find our place in it. So glad I finally found mine… almost by accident! BTW, I’m finally working on my next book! The slump is over!


  5. There is a man, a recluse, who lives along the banks of a river about 20 or so miles from where I live in upstate New York. He’s been there for years, all by himself, and he makes ends meet by catching river eel, smoking them, and selling them (a business called Delaware Delicacies), with one hand painted side along a highway. That’s his sole advertising). People, I understand, come from New York City to buy his eel. I wonder, too (he’s in his 60’s) how much longer he will be able to live in what we would consider primitive conditions. Happiness is relative but if the Delaware Delicacies man was my relative, I would be worried about him, too, and finding some way to check up on him.


  6. Thanks Nancy! I call him that because he reminds me so much of Paul McCartney’s song called that. Yes, when I walked into his favorite coffee shop everybody knew him and then me. Such a grand sense of community compared to here.


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