Our days on the shore of Sheridan Lake were taken up with
physical work. Each evening, sitting around our campfire, we read a few pages of the biography of Madame Curie. As a university student passionate about scientific research, Marie Curie existed largely on buttered toast and tea. She and her husband Pierre conducted their research in a cramped storage room, the only space the university could offer. During one phase of their experiments, the Curies, mainly Marie, treated 8 tons of pitchblende to obtain one gram of radium. They could have sold it for $150,000 but decided to keep it for further research. Their commitment and sacrifice deeply stirred our imaginations.
Toward the end of summer, we began to realize we were living in a world with an extremely limited horizon. Marie Curie’s commitment to science awakened in me a desire to further my education. Swatting at hungry mosquitoes and trying to avoid the smoke of our campfire one evening, I said, “I’d like to go to university, but I know we don’t have the money.” Without hesitating, Linda said, “I could work.”
A few days later, while we were working in the water at the front of our lot, the black bear jumped over my corral and damaged our tent. It really didn’t matter. We were preparing to depart and broke camp a few days later.
Back in the Fraser Valley, I enrolled at Simon Fraser University and we found a basement suite to rent in Burnaby. In September I began working toward a BA in the social sciences.
That was 46 years ago. Now my hair is the colour of snow and I have retired after many years of working with inmates in provincial and federal corrections and then with young offenders in a remote setting. I still like to reflect on Marie Curie’s unswerving commitment and wonderful passion. Her life infused Linda and me with a sense of direction and purpose. Because of her example, our foolish decision had a good outcome.