Skiing and Scuba

Ross Henderson loves to scuba dive; her husband loves to ski.

Faculty member Ross Henderson loves to scuba dive; her husband loves to ski.

As the summer winds down, I find myself ruminating on vacations. Very soon the pace of the school year will resume and, as much as I love the sense of purpose and engagement of the academic calendar, I admit to thinking often about my next chance to get away. For the nearly the last quarter century, most of those plans have involved either skiing or scuba diving.

My wife, Ross, is an avid and accomplished scuba diver.  One of her objectives every summer is to find a chance to go diving. I do not share that mission. If I have a choice, I am entirely content to put on a mask, snorkel and fins and thrash around on the surface. In contrast, in the winter, I love to ski. She endures skiing, and in fact would usually prefer to be in front of a fireplace with a good book. We have reached an accommodation in our marriage that is a model of successful compromise.  Back in the mists of time, however, when we were first married, we had a different arrangement.

Head of School Bob Henderson only likes to dive when the conditions are perfect.

Head of School Bob Henderson only likes to dive when the conditions are perfect.

Ross is from North Carolina. She learned to ski when she was growing up, but the opportunities for skiing in North Carolina were few and far between. When they did arise, the conditions were poor. She went to college in the South, majored in biology, developed a passion for the ocean and marine life, and learned how to scuba dive.  Everywhere we have lived (California, Maui, Maine and Massachusetts), Ross has gone diving when she has the opportunity, although on vacation she chooses now to go to warm water to dive rather than experience the frigid waters of New England.  Over time she developed a marine biology class that she has offered at four schools, including Nobles, and, with biology teacher Jeremy Kovacs, she has delighted in taking Nobles students to dive over March break in Honduras.

I grew up in New England and learned to ski. My family was oriented north to the mountains (as opposed to the New England seashore), and I spent the winters of my youth at places like Waterville Valley and Attitash.  In college I worked on the ski patrol, and on vacations after I started teaching I looked for opportunities to try new ski resorts around the country. In those days, I did not get injured while skiing and thought of myself as invulnerable on the slopes.

When we met and started dating, and even through the first few years of our marriage, we sincerely sought to balance our varied interests so we could share them with each other. Ross went skiing like a trooper. I learned to scuba dive. She would express to people how much she liked skiing, and I would announce my enthusiasm for diving. We were not entirely insincere, but over time we were able to come to grips with the fact that we liked spending time on vacation with each other way more than we enjoyed each other’s athletic interests while there. Ross ultimately conceded that she really only liked to ski on perfect, sunny days with ideal snow and temperatures right at or just above freezing. And she only liked to ski at a leisurely pace for half of the day. These conditions are rare indeed in New England, and once our three sons started to ski, racing non-stop down the mountain all day long, she found little joy in the experience.  Similarly, I only like to dive in perfect conditions, in warm, clear water.  And I use my air up too fast, anxiously hyper-ventilating, checking my gear constantly; this forces us to surface long before Ross is out of air. Ross would just as soon dive without me. So I concede the point and just snorkel, or better yet, stay behind with a book on the beach.

After three broken legs skiing over the last 15 years, however, and a long ongoing recovery from my last break in December, I am contemplating when, or even whether, I will get back on the slopes. Our vacation balance is at risk!  And so, as I work in my office this August at all the tasks necessary to initiate a new school year, I find myself wondering far more than in the past what I will do in December, March and July when I have time away. I have a feeling I will need to bring along my snorkel and lots of good books!

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