My husband’s friend Yoram was horrified when he heard that Shraga and I would be traveling together in the United States for seven weeks.
“Over a lifetime, a husband and wife spend only 12 minutes a day on average talking to each other,” Yoram declared. “What will you do for seven whole weeks?”
I understood why Yoram was worried. As far as I could tell, he didn’t spend more than 12 minutes a day with his wife, talking or not talking—on average, of course.
So what did Shraga and I talk about for all those days and weeks?
In Santa Fe we talked about the many rabbis and Jewish congregations we visited as part of my research for an article. We talked about the Spanish conquerors and their relations with the American Indians, and about the German Jews who ventured into the Wild West to seek their fortune.
We talked about Georgia O’Keeffe and her landscapes inspired by the Southwest and the fact that she was married to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who was the son of German-Jewish immigrants and who brought about the recognition of artistic photography as a legitimate art form.
We talked about John Irving and his novel Last Night on Twisted River, which Shraga had just finished and I had just started. Shraga can talk endlessly about Irving, his favorite American author; I was just getting my teeth into the book and was waiting to see how it would develop, so mostly I just listened.
In the campgrounds we talked about how lucky we were to be able to be camping and how much we enjoyed the sense of self-sufficiency we got from packing everything we needed in the trunk of a car. We talked about where the sun would rise and how best to position the tent. We talked about the slow leak in the air mattress that meant we knew it was morning when our backsides touched the ground. And we talked about how one night I nearly walked off a cliff when I went in search of the toilets.
We talked about pancakes and maple syrup, omelets and salad, and all the other things we like to eat when we’re camping.
We marveled at the beauty of America, at the national parks and national forests and especially the many, many state parks. We ended up camping in places we had never heard of, each of them a gem, and this was a constant source of wonder.
We talked about the wrong turn we’d made in northwestern New Mexico that unexpectedly took us through forests with glorious fall foliage. And we talked about the road we’d taken west through Nevada when we had to change course and were surprised to find ourselves in dramatic, tree-covered mountains.
And of course we talked about our children and the friends and relatives we had visited and would visit, and our work, and our plans for the next long trip we would take in the US.
Oh yes, Yoram, there were about eight hours each night when we didn’t talk to each other because we were asleep, yet we still managed more then 12 minutes of talk a day—on average, of course.
Text and photos copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text or photos may be used without written permission of the author.