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  • RCC commencement speaker: Music, poetry give Eric Grace an opening to the world around him

    Music, poetry give Eric Grace an opening to share experience with world around him
  • When Eric Grace first held his newborn, he was surprised to see a little boy.
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  • When Eric Grace first held his newborn, he was surprised to see a little boy.
    "I expected a girl and didn't have a name picked out for a boy, so I asked him what he wanted to be named," said Grace, who will be one of two student speakers at the RCC commencement ceremony Saturday. "I sensed Savar, and I always liked the name Ocean, so he became Savar Ocean Grace."
    For Grace, characteristically relaxed and open-minded, asking a newborn to name himself seemed only natural.
    His son is now 10, but Grace, 37, continues to approach his poetry, music and life in the same manner he approached naming his son.
    Over the past 10 years, Grace has written more than 200 poems. This summer he will begin sorting them into a book and writing commentary. While writing poetry is something he loves to do, he is more excited about the different experiences reading poetry can create for the reader.
    "Poetry can put the ineffable into actual form and make the listener open up to new realities," Grace said.
    Grace, who sings and plays the guitar and didgeridoo, said he is drawn to music for the same reasons he is drawn to poetry.
    "Both have the capacity to access another world and bring it here," Grace said. "I think we live in a world with so many different realities, so it's nice to create spaces for people to at least peek in at them."
    Grace, who has already transferred to Southern Oregon University, is committed to taking his music further.
    "I'm going to go for it," Grace said. "I've spent years trying different things and figuring out what I want to do, and it's music."
    Grace also opened his own successful "green" cleaning business, GraceWorks Housecleaning, in Ashland six years ago. He said he enjoys "creating spaces of beauty where people can relax," and plans to continue managing the business and its eight employees while music.
    One of his first steps toward his music career happens from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Club 66, where his band formed out of a class at SOU is performing along with other members of the class.
    The following evening, however, Grace will put aside his guitar to speak to his classmates for five minutes at the Marjorie Holzgang Concert Bowl on the RCC Redwood Campus in Grants Pass.
    Grace, who was nominated to give the speech by one of his professors, will encourage his classmates to embrace learning and the simple joys of life.
    "A lot of times I think we have these really grand ideas of what we should do rather than listening to the smaller or more simple things that light us up," Grace said. "The more you do the things that light you up, be it reading to a kid or going fishing, the more you can share that with the world and the world gets lit up too."
    He may be graduating from RCC this weekend, but Grace is far from done with his education.
    "RCC was a fantastic experience," Grace said. "But I just love learning. I never want to stop."
    Reach Mail Tribune reporting intern Kelsey Thomas at 541-776-4368 or kthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at twitter.com/kelseyethomas.
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