At one point during our visit to Big Indian on that hot summer day, Rudi put his hands on my shoulders and said, “You never know what the gods have in store. In this case, I think a girl.” He didn’t explain what that meant, and I didn’t ask – we’d had no discussion about my unarguably unilateral scheme to get pregnant.
Rudi had predicted other things. It was his firm belief that he would die at age eighty-four, Swami Rudrananda, the promulgator of a great spiritual movement – a kind of down-to-earth, practical Buddhism with ashrams in every corner of the globe. He did have a huge following of students and disciples, and his Asian Art business was worth a fortune. He was a larger than life character – it was hard not to believe his prognostications. We all thought he’d go on forever, an immensely successful businessman and spiritual leader, and so his death in a plane crash in February 1973, a month after his forty-fourth birthday, was not only shocking but somewhat mysterious.
He was the only one to die in the crash – a small plane that went down in the Catskills. The three others on board walked away with only minor injuries. Rumors abounded over the next several years that there had been foul play. Rudi’s organization was an empire in the making and there’d been discussion about who would succeed him (he’d approached Werner in this regard, one of the few he trusted). I know nothing about the details of his will. To this day I continue to visit Big Indian every summer with friends and family. Buried under a statue of himself that has become a hidden shrine, Rudi’s personality pervades the surrounding countryside. I swear one can hear that strongly accented Brooklyn voice on the wind and in the murmurings of the leaves: “Do what makes you happy and do it the best you can.” And so, walking around his statue, doing his double breath technique, I’ve asked for blessings, inspiration, guidance, fertility, and always I’ve felt he was there and he responded.
Certainly he was right all those years ago, in the summer of 1972. I got pregnant the next cycle and I was carrying a girl. (In fact, Jofka’s due date was calculated from the day of that first visit to Big Indian.) When Werner found out about my condition, all hell broke loose. This was going to be a long, lonely, bumpy (excuse the pun) ride.
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