PHOENIX AND THE FELLAS
We pull off onto a dirt road in the middle of no where looking for some quiet for the evening. We find a nice spot sitting on top of a hill, where we can just see desert for miles. Shortly after we set up camp, an old 80s suburban with the rounded back comes clunking up that same dirt road, slowly bouncing back and forth. They slow by our site and a young kid in the passenger seat yells out to me asking if they can park behind us. I begrugdedly say yes, although I felt a little suspicious as there is like a 100 miles of open land around us. But nonetheless they pull there suburban in right behind ours and begin getting set up. Out of the suburban come a young boy, a young mom, a great dane and a small cat. I (Tyler) am out looking for some firewood and the young boy, about 12 years old, comes running down the hillside towards me. He instantly introduces himself and asks if he can help me collect firewood. Still with my walls up and in a bit of confusion I say sure. From there we begin to dialogue. His name was Seth, an articulate and thoughtful seventh grader (ish). He was dressed in a dirty old t-shirt with the collar all torn, covered by a well worn pair of overalls, with holes in the knees. It was like he walked right out off the set of little house on the prairie. His skin looked like he had spent some time outside and his hands dirty, but his spirit was energized. He was eager to help and was very open to talking. His mother was over by the ole suburban getting some beans out for dinner. She seemed a little more reserved and focused on her task at hand. His momma, Phoenix, was unique, big sweater on wiith old chacos wrapped around her feet. You could see tattoos on her neck in her hair line; she looked like she had some stories to tell. But after chatting with Seth for a short while, we invited them to join us for dinner and a fire. They agreed and were going to contribute their beans, so we could share in a meal together.
We lined up in and outside the bus and did a little buffet line, or as much as you can in 30 square feet. We gathered around the fire and said grace. Shelby and I tried to be as hospitable as possible, given we don’t have much extra stuff on board. But they were insistent about sitting on the ground, content to just be sharing a meal with us. We talked for hours about where they were from, about their lives, pets, family members, faith and what its all about. We had wonderful conversation over dinner, cleaning dishes, hunting for firewood and tending the fire. These two, were some of the most fascinating people we had ever met. The most authentic hippies, not in a derogatory way, but in a- we live the life we want kind of way. Seth was not your ordinary middle schooler. He was home schooled by his momma and had taught himself how to fly fish, hunt and filet and cook his game. He had very few things, a couple shirts, a gun, some fishing gear, and a satchel that he kept all of his maps, nicknacks, and sketch pad in. Seth wasn’t afraid to say what was on his mind, but he was also respectful in his demeanor towards us and his momma. He showed me a pictured he drew of a guy sitting in a chair watching a TV which had zig zags coming off of it going into the guys head. And in the background was a window with a blue bird. The boy explained that the drawing depicted the destruction of television and how it destroys your mind, and makes you miss the beautiful things happening around you like a bird in the window. He seemed wise beyond his age and yet he still giggled and laughed about the things middle school boys laugh about.
Phoenix and Seth had no cell phones or screens. There suburban or what they called their “camperburban” was old, dirty and extremely simple. They ate beans they had soaked all day and only owned a few things. Their life did not seem easy per say, but they seemed none the less full of life. Phoenix called her son dude often, and they cackled pretending to make voices for their dog and cat. They had a bond and a mutual respect that I have only seen a few times in my life between parent and child. They were more like captain and mate of their ship the camperburban, setting sail for Neverland and it was beautiful. They were so wonderfully removed from distractions and complications. I kept wanting to see if they envied or desired more, like a house or a phone or modern conveniences- but I did not get that vibe. They were without want, or at least as I could see. We offered them some clothes that we were going to take to good will, and Seth took a shirt, but only after inspecting what it was made out of and to see if it was made out of quality, durable material for their lifestyle. But other than that they passed on the rest, not feeling the need for more.
After sitting at the fire for a while, we decided to call it a night, but not because of what time it was, but because it was dark and people felt tired, a stark difference from our life back home. And just like that in the morning as we woke up, they had vanished just as they had oddly appeared the day before. They left a a crystalized rock with a note under it that said “headed out early, peace be with you”- Phoenix and the fellas. And if it wasn’t for that note I think Shelby and I would still wonder if that experience was real. As I am processing it now a week later I think that might have been one of the more real experiences we have ever had. There were no screens, no instagram accounts to follow, or phone numbers to exchange. There were no pictures taken to distract us from the moment, just a few strangers gathered around a meal and a fire, cherishing the wonder that is this earth.