Who’s Waldo?

Images from “Not Too South,” home of Waldo and Betty in Punta Gorda, Florida

A more detailed biography is in the works at Not Two, but basically I am a transplanted Cajun raised by lay Transcendentalist monks — devotees of the naturalist spirituality of Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and all the sacred Eastern philosophies that influenced them. I grew up reading all the classic essays and scriptures and poetry on my family’s shrimping boat in southwest Louisiana, but they had little effect on me until later in life.

Wing and a Prayer, Betty’s old bed-and-breakfast in Smith Center, Kansas

In 2001, shortly after the East Coast terror attacks of 9/11, I was driving a big rig cross-country when it broke down near the small village of Smith Center, Kansas. It was very late on a cold, stormy night, and I had a five mile walk ahead to reach the nearest phone. But the first person to come along on old Highway 36 was an extraordinary woman named Betty Pickett.

She brought me to her bed-and-breakfast inn, a heavenly place called “Wing and a Prayer,” which was partly a dormitory for students of a “contemplative research center” that she and Virginia Moss, her 91 year-old mother, operated on the family farm nearby.

Sixty years prior, in response to young Betty’s anxiety about her father’s imminent departure for Europe during World War II, a spontaneous spark of insight by Virginia ignited a lifelong journey of the spirit for four generations of the Pickett-Moss family. The Middle of Everywhere –founded twenty years later in 1961, dubbed in honor the locals’ nickname for the Smith County region as home to the geographic center of the 48 states– was their gift to the world where they taught their homespun pantheistic wisdom to all who came for it regardless of ability to pay.

529985_448101148558008_588581916_nI never went back to the truck. The Middle of Everywhere was my home away from home for the next several years, and all the locked boxes and confounding mental puzzles I’d carried from childhood were opened up and sorted out by Betty and Virginia. Literally everything presented by the Not Two project was made possible by their teachings.

Virginia left us in 2005, but the center stayed active under Betty’s watch until her husband passed away six years later, and she decided it was time to sell the inn and the farm, ending a remarkable fifty year run for this unheralded spiritual treasure. Betty retired here to this quiet community along the Peace River, and I joined her the next summer to help manage her affairs.

Not long after I arrived, we were visited by another former student, a fellow gearjammer from upstate New York who prefers to be known only as “JP.” We really hit it off, talking for hours every night about his frustrated efforts to finish a book about the day (a rather infamous one back in 2001) when he met Betty in California. That turned out to be the beginning of a collaborative effort to write Fly Above The Storm: a fugue in seven acts, a project that has had a couple iterations, deaths, and rebirths over the years since, but now appears ready to roll.

JP is content to give me more credit than the average ghost writing yokel deserves, but truth be told, he is the one who lived the story and he is the creative engine behind it (and, incidentally,  he’s also the weaver of all the web pages on both sites, something outside of my skill set). I merely provided the story structure and most of the words. (Vera d’Angelo is responsible for the others, all of the juicy ones in fact.)

The other book in the ND Media library, The Continuing Story of Ananias and Sapphira, is entirely JP’s word for word. He scribbled it in a road journal he cradled in his lap while driving his rig back in 2004, after having his “eighth chakra” turned on by Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Why he wants my name on it, I have no idea, but he insists.

Looking east from Middle of Everywhere

Anyway, that’s a wee bit about me, in case you wanted to know something about the man behind the Underwood. (It’s not mine unfortunately. I do love those old clackity machines the best for writing, but I traded up for a laptop so I can get my words to JP a little faster.) As much as my compatriots like to hide behind me from the spotlight, this project is truly a team effort, and I’m just grateful to be a part of it. Without them, I’d probably still be pushing an old diesel down the road, wondering where all the years and miles went.

Waldo Noesta                                                                                                                                          Harbour Heights, Florida                                                                                                                    March 31, 2017

The main house at Middle of Everywhere, four miles east of the geographical center of the 48 states outside Lebanon, Kansas. Virginia Moss lived all of her adult life here, and Betty Pickett was born here in 1932. At the time when this was taken in 2013, the house had been unoccupied for at least a year. Like many parts of the Great Plains, the area around Lebanon is nearly desolate now.