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What’s new for the savvy Senior
Where were you in 1951? Cheva Garcia had just started her current job at CMC
Need help tracking your running and biking? There’s an app for that
Guillermo Escalante knows how to inspire clients at physical therapy center
Serving up a zest for life by Beth Hartnett
Meet Cheva Garcia, a CMC dining hall employee since 1951.
Exercising technology by Peter Weinberger
Learn about the many exercise apps available to challenge you.
he Claremont COURIERʼs annual Healthy Living special is a guide for local health aficionados and savvy seniors, as Claremonters are notoriously active well into their golden years. Our community maintains a variety of senior centers, health options and community organizations, making Claremont an ideal retirement locale as well as a haven for families. In this special edition, youʼll find out about fitness trends, mid-life adventures and a handful of city events geared towards lively seniors.
SportPros focus on fitness by Alex Forbess
Co-owner Guillermo Escalante inspires clients at physical therapy center.
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Achievement later in life by Sarah Torribio
Afaa Michael Weaver wins CGU Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.
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Longtime CMC employee serves up zest for life
he salads, fruit and assorted entrees at Claremont McKenna’s Collins Dining Hall aren’t quite complete without one more ingredient added to the mix: Cheva M. Garcia. The 89-year-old Claremont resident has been a permanent fixture at the school’s lunch line since she was hired on in 1951. She remains the school’s longest standing employee, an honor she wears with pride.
“This place is like my second home,” Ms. Garcia said. “These people are my family.” Meal service at CMC has changed over the years— from a mix of hors d'oeuvres to a family-style spread to the more traditional pick-your-pleasure cafeteria fare that is served today—but Ms. Garcia approaches her work with the same gusto. And her famous wreath-shaped jello salad continues to gain her notoriety at Christmastime, just as it has for decades. She takes her post seriously. Every weekday, Ms. Garcia is up and raring to go at 6 a.m., fixing the students’ breakfast before she gets her own. After a quick half-hour break, she’s back to work serving the first meal of the day and then cleaning up and prepping for the next, cutting up fruit and preparing fresh salads for hungry students. The dining hall staple recognizes that retirement is on the horizon; she claims age 90 is her limit. For the
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COURIER photos/Peter Weinberger Cheva Garcia has gift for gab and a great sense of humor, which has helped her keep a youthful spirit over her 63-year career at CMC dining hall.
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time being, however, she’s happy for the busy schedule. And, in fact, she says she’d have it no other way. “I like being in here, socializing with everyone,” she said. Ms. Garcia was born on March 1925 in Los Angeles, where her father worked in a family-run grocery store near what is now Chinatown. Soon after Ms. Garcia’s birth, the family traded in their store and city life for the sprawling citrus groves of north Pomona as her father went to work in the
orchards. Two years later they moved further east, joining other migrant pickers in the bungalows of the Arbol Verde district off Claremont Boulevard and First Street in Claremont. Spanning three towns and two counties, Arbol Verde was a community all its own, providing a culturally-rich upbringing for Ms. Garcia despite the struggles of segregation felt at school and other areas of everyday life. For instance, Ms. Garcia notes that Mexican students were quietly tucked into their own separate classroom when she attended Sycamore Elementary School. Festive celebrations called las Jamaicas, shifts at the corner grocery store and
neighborhood plays acted out at the Pomona College gymnasium were highlights of her happy childhood. A neighborhood boy—Salvador “Sal” Garcia— was another important feature. The pair married in 1947, settling in the Arbol Verde home Ms. Garcia still lives in today. The structure was built by Mr. Garcia’s parents with the money he would send home from his World War II deployment with the United States Navy. The pair turned their house into a home with the addition of five children—David, Susie, Henry,
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Daniel and Grace Anne. The family didn’t want for much. Mr. and Mrs. Garcia emphasized the importance of providing a strong educational foundation for their children, which they have, in turn, shared with their own. Still, money was hard to come by. Toiling in the groves became increasingly difficult for Mr. Garcia after a work accident left him without one of his hands. The devastating injury did little to dampen his spirits. The former Navy sailor found new opportunity along with a crop of war veterans looking for a fresh start at one of Claremont’s newest institutions, Claremont Men’s College (now Claremont McKenna). With a growing family, Mr. Garcia did not, like many returning military personnel, pursue a degree at the school with the help of the GI Bill. Instead, he went to work in the school’s dining hall. Though he initially was opposed to the idea of his wife juggling work and motherhood, Ms. Garcia took a position in the dining hall in the summer of 1951. By that September, she was offered a fulltime post. The dining hall employee is no stranger to hard work. After her father’s death when she was just 16, Ms. Garcia took it upon herself as the eldest of 10 children to help provide for the family, earning the nickname “Mom” from her siblings. Whether at the Arbol Verde grocery store or picking crops in family orchards up north and in the San Pedro cannery, she took the responsibility to care for her family seriously. The same sense of accountability transferred to her post at CMC. “I’ve always thought of my co-workers,” she said. “They depend on me.” Other than a brief hiatus after the birth of her fifth child, Ms. Garcia has hardly taken any time off work. She finished the school year nine months pregnant with her third child, giving birth a week later. A fall last week that caused injury to her arm didn’t stop her either. She returned to work as scheduled after just one day off with a few bandages and an arm wrap in place. Such purpose keeps her young, she insists. “I don’t do it to be ambitious. I’m just stubborn, I guess,” she said. “I just feel I have more to give. You can’t take that out of me.”
—Beth Hartnett firstname.lastname@example.org
COURIER photo/Peter Weinberger Cheva Garcia has worked in food services at Claremont McKenna College since 1951. At 89 years old, the nearly lifelong Claremont resident is considering retirement.
Foodies invited to cheese, wine pairing
The presentation will include a short reception and light refreshments. The function will be held at the Seaver House, 305 N. College Ave. in Claremont. There is a fee of $10 cash, payable at the door. Pre-registration required. To register or for more information, call (909) 399-5488.
cheese and wine pairing event will be held as part of the Claremont Senior Program’s ongoing After Work series on Tuesday, May 20 at 5:30 p.m.
Olé! Fun-filled fiesta to be held at Joslyn
tudents from the National Honor Society will host a “La Fiesta” dinner and dance event at the Oak Room of the Joslyn Senior Center on Friday, May 23 from 5 to 7 p.m.
Senior center to celebrate Mother’s Day with tea, good company
he Joslyn Center will host a Mother’s Day tea on Thursday, May 8 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Guests are encouraged to bring a favorite teacup and a hat befitting the occasion.
Guests ages 55 and older are encouraged to “dust off your maracas, put on your sombreros and slip on your dancing shoes” for this evening of food, music and live entertainment. Admission is $5. Pre-registration is required as space is limited. The Joslyn Senior Center is located at 660 N. Mountain Ave. in Claremont. For information, call 399-5488.
Tickets, which are $5, are available at the Joslyn Center, 660 N. Mountain Ave., Claremont. For information, call (909) 399-5488.
Open house to showcase life at new Upland retirement community
Oakmont of San Antonio Heights redefines senior living with a combination of resort amenities including gourmet dining daily on- and off-site recreational and social activities, library, movie theater, fully-equipped fitness center with daily instructional classes, activity rooms with scheduled social events, games, arts and crafts, a salon and day spa, a resident flower and vegetable garden, walking paths and a pet park. Oakmont of San Antonio Heights offers specialized care services that promote continued wellness, allowing residents to age comfortably in a place with the support they may need. Care options will be customized to the needs of each resident and will include medication management, housekeeping, health monitoring and assessments, grooming assistance, dietary guidance, diabetic programs, escort services to offsite appointments and activities, appointment coordination and temporary in-home care. Oakmont of San Antonio Heights is currently accepting reservations. Visit oakmontofsanantonioheights.com for more information.
akmont Senior Living has completed construction of the model apartment homes at Oakmont of San Antonio Heights. An open house on April 26 will provide a premier perspective of what life will be like at the 75,000-square-foot retirement community, scheduled to open this summer.
The public is invited to attend and enjoy hors d'oeuvres, refreshments and a tour of Upland’s newest retirement campus, which offers both custom full-time assisted living services and memory care services for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Once completed, the community will host 56 assisted-living and 23 memory-care apartments with studio, oneand two-bedroom floor options and high-end features including crown molding, 10-foot ceilings and spacious bathrooms. More than just a retirement facility,
Keeping track of exercise has never been so fun, easy
any have said there are Smartphone and computer apps for everything. When it comes to tracking your running and biking for regular exercise, this is clearly the case. There are dozens of exercise apps out there. So many in fact, that deciding what works best for you can be a challenge.
As someone who bikes on a regular basis, using an app on my Smartphone to track my efforts has had many benefits. They all work on one basic premise.
These programs all have a built-in GPS to track exactly how far, what route, how fast, how many calories, and even elevation gain/loss of your ride or run. They work like a stopwatch that you start and stop at the beginning and end of your workout. There are motivational tools to compare your routes with others, you can create challenges with others (or yourself), see routes on Google Maps, share information with friends through social media, even be chased by zombies to push yourself even harder. Many of these apps are free, but will
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COGNITIVE AND SOCIAL STIMULATION
KEY FACTORS TO HEALTHY AGING
ecent statistics on aging show that as many as 45 percent of seniors are divorced, separated or widowed, leaving many to live alone. In addition to these statistics, AARP reports, that nearly 90 percent of seniors want to age in place. These findings are important because older people who live alone are particularly vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness due to the loss of friends and family, of mobility and/or loss of income. With social isolation and loneliness come myriad health issues. Recent studies show Social Stimulation is a key factor to Studies have shown a direct healthy aging and can reduce the risk of health ailments. correlation between loneliness Meet REAL Connection Members, (left to right) Mary and disability, cognitive ability, Schmit; REAL Daughter, Dana Wood; Bill Reed, Elaine DeWitt & Pat Reed at a REAL Connections Monthly Potluck. cancer, higher blood pressure, stroke and heart disease. A recent study by John Capioppo, Director for the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, reveals that older people who are extremely lonely or socially isolated often demonstrate genuine traumatic effects, increasing their chance of premature death by 14 percent. In addition to physical activity, regular cognitive and social stimulation are key factors to prolonging your health. Engaging your brain in activities such as reading, playing board games, learning a new language, playing a musical instrument or even dancing can improve your cognitive health. Having social connections, whether it is through volunteerism, being active in your church, joining a group based on activities you enjoy (such as playing cards or joining a book club); or making visits to your local senior center can improve your health and improve your chances of longevity. Social activities like these can reduce your risk for Alzheimerʼs disease, depression, lower blood pressure, osteoporsis and other health conditions. The City of Claremont has been rated #2 by Huffington Post as one of the great College communities in which to retire because of the many great senior services offered to their residents. The Pomona Colleges offers classes to those over the age of 60 which may be audited at no charge. REAL Connections, a membership program of the non-profit Community Senior Services, offers transportation services to residents who are no longer able to drive. REAL Connections aslo provides weekly and monthly senior outings, such as potlucks, poker and karaokee nights. The Claremont Joslyn Center offers great classes that include walking & biking clubs. If you are looking for a great service organization to volunteer your time and give back to the community, there is Claremont Sunrise Rotary Club. For those seniors who are homebound, Claremont has a great group of volunteers through Community Senior Services who visit and to check in on those who cannot get out. There is something for just about everyone. For more information regarding the full range of senior services in the area, check out the City of Claremont website, ci.claremont.ca.us and click social support groups or communityseniorservices.org. If you are new to the area or are a “boomer” wishing to downsize to one of the beautiful retirement communities in Claremont, please do contact me! I willl pave the way for your smooth transition into the Claremont Community.
You can see how the smartphone interface to record your run/ride on Strava (right) is simple and straightforward. Once a route is saved, there are other windows to view your stats. Map My Ride throws many options at you to get your routine recorded.
Transition Living Consultant,
SRES®. BRE #01899295
“Your trusted resource as you transition through the new stage of your life.”
Stats provided by AARP, Tracy Rose, Aging Health, Liberty Voice 2/17/14. huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/college-towns-draw-retirees
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Once your ride is saved on Strava, you can go to your computer to see all sorts of information on how you did. That includes a detailed map of the route.
offer expensive upgrades that, unless you are a serious competitor, are not really necessary. The thing to keep in mind is that a more expensive app doesn’t mean it’s better. Here are three that rise above the pack regardless of your expertise level as a runner or cyclist. Strava: Basic version is free, premium $29.99 This is one of the most popular exercise tracking apps and one used by many Claremonters who bike and run in the area. The Claremont Hills Wilderness Park in particular has almost 2000 bikers who compare their times around the park through Strava, for example. I use this app for my biking. I like it because the design is clean, it’s easy to use and the free version does not blitz you with annoying ads. Each time I ride, I get a complete readout of everything I’d ever want to know about my trek. Since I save each and everything, Strava tells me how far I’ve gone for the week and month, including other choices.
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You can also install the application on your computer, which makes it even easier to view your stats. The free version works great. Strava started as a biking app, but now includes running with all these impressive options. And if you are a serious rider, you will really enjoy comparing yourself against other cyclists who ride the roads around Claremont. You may even find someone you know who is a Strava user. Map My Ride/Run: Basic version is free, MVP $29.99 yearly I started using this app before moving over to Strava. It’s still a good choice that actually has even more options like logging your food intake, finding friends and even giving coaching advice. Of course, many of these options are with the MVP version only, which is quite expensive. Using the free version is not as streamlined as Strava, especially with the more cluttered design and pop-up ads that constantly try to get you to buy stuff or upgrade. The one advantage over Strava is the stopwatch only works when you are moving. So if you stop for a rest, lunch or just a water break, you are off the clock. It automatically starts again when your run or ride continues, providing a really accurate readout on how fast you were travelling. I found this quite handy during long bike rides where I may stop to enjoy the sites. More serious riders tend to use Strava (especially bikers who climb hills), but Map My Ride/Run has all the bells and whistles and excellent maps to view your routes. It will just take a little longer to figure out how it works best for you. Zombies, Run! $3.99 Do you find it difficult to stay motivated once on the road for your regular run? Then this app may fit
your needs. Like the other exercise tracking apps, Zombies will track your run, but also make it a game to get outside and exercise. This app is perfect for people who struggle to get going, but want to exercise on a regular basis. Headphones are needed to hear updates on how the living dead are about to catch you, so you need to keep running! It’s really an audio adventure during exercise and the only way to get away to safety
is run! It even works on treadmills. This app clearly is a winner because of the fun factor, but won’t have as many options to track your exercise routine as Strava and Map My Ride. Whatever app fits your lifestyle, the good news is there’s plenty of help to keep you in shape.
—Peter Weinberger email@example.com
SportsPro weighs options, opens physical therapy center
here was no telling what might happen when co-owner Guillermo Escalante first opened SportsPros Physical Therapy Center inside of Claremont’s Irons Works Gym on Foothill Boulevard in 2000.
As a 23-year-old, he was armed with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training, an MBA with an emphasis in healthcare management and marketing and a few years of experience as an athletic trainer. “I’ve always had a passion for fitness,” Mr. Escalante said. “I really wanted to figure out how to get bigger, faster and stronger.” Fourteen years later, Mr. Escalante is excited for his business’ new home on Monte Vista Avenue in Claremont. In January of this year, he and his staff—which includes six like-minded, certified therapists and trainers—joined forces with the Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club and its owner, Sean Douglas, in a 40,000-square-foot fitness facility. Mr. Escalante said his passion for fitness started even before high school. At age 12, he bought his first nutrition book to understand the proper diet for a particular workout. He had some difficulties making his mark in athletics at Arcadia High School, but whenever he or his friends were injured, Mr. Escalante would find ways to strengthen the weaknesses. “Whenever I got injured, I immediately tried to understand how to heal and get on the field faster,” Mr. Escalante said. He continued to improve, both physically and mentally, while competing in football and track and field at the University of La Verne. After earning his bachelor’s in 1997 and MBA in 1999, he became a certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist. It did not take him long to find another passion: bodybuilding. Mr. Escalante was apprehensive about what bodybuilding might entail but, at a friend’s urging, decided to give it a shot. He trained for about four months then, after appearing in his first show, was hooked. “I love to work out, but I also love something to compete in,” Mr. Escalante said. “You end up competing against yourself and I loved the dedication and discipline that was involved.”
Back then, I just had a little money and a big dream.
Guillermo Escalante SportsPros co-owner
While competing and offering basic sports training and personal training at several places, he decided to start his own fitness center. “Back then, I just had a little money and a big dream,” he said. It was difficult to attract new clients at first— college athletes, former patients recovering from surgery, seniors—but with knowledge and a reassuring demeanor, his business continued to grow as his client base reached their fitness goals. “When educating clients, I had to show them I had more to offer,” Mr. Escalante said. “I had to show them that it was actually a disservice not choosing me.” SPORTS PROS/continues on the next page
COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club Director Sean Douglas works with client Samantha Bozoian on Monday at the Claremont-based sports center. Mr. Douglas recently partnered with Sports Pros to expand the fitness and wellness services at the Monte Vista Avenue facility.
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r. Escalante opened SportsPros on West Foothill Boulevard, where it remained from 2004 to 2008. In 2009, he partnered with physical therapist Dee Lipton, who had 25 years of experience with the National Athletic Trainers Association, and the two moved SportsPros a few blocks down on Foothill Boulevard into a more spacious facility.
Client Jackia Koukol started at SportsPros three years ago after having some knee problems. She was nervous at her first meeting with Mr. Escalante, she said, and admitted to being slightly intimidated by the muscle-bound bodybuilder. However, she noted that he was very welcoming and eager to hear her concerns. “He is very easy to talk with,” Ms. Koukol said. “He is such a nice person and he never made me feel like, ‘Oh, is that all you can do?’” Mr. Escalante said he enjoys learning about his clients’ background and loves learning new methods to get the best results for them. Even after Ms. Koukol’s knee surgery in September 2013, the SportsPros team would quickly think of an efficient regiment to strengthen her knee. She said Mr. Escalante likes to change things up and has made all the difference in the world for her and her husband, Robert, who had a minor shoulder injury. While continuing to expand his business, Mr. Escalante earned a doctorate in athletic training in 2012 from Rocky Mountain University, Utah. His studies helped to expand his interests beyond weight
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COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff SportsPros co-owner Guillermo Escalante helps client Bernadette Figueroa with her form during a workout at the Claremont exercise facility. SportsPros offers personal training, physical therapy, senior fitness and— with their new partner Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club— there are also volleyball and crossfit classes.
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training and physical therapy, to include rehabilitation and nutrition. Mr. Escalante has put his doctorate to use as a kinesiology professor at Cal State San Bernardino.
ith dreams of expanding his business once again, a chance meeting at a Chamber mixer last year put Mr. Escalante in touch with Sean Douglas from the Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club. Mr. Escalante expressed interest in renting space at Mr. Douglas’s facility, a proposition Mr. Douglas was excited about because he knew the trainer would help his players become more flexible and stronger athletes.
“We are both into personal training and I knew introducing the players to
COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff SportsPros co-owner Guillermo Escalante assists client Dr. Anand Muthiah with his workout on Monday at the Claremont exercise and rehabilitation center. Last year, SportsPros partnered with Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club, enabling the new facility to offer a range of fitness services to the community.
physical therapy would bring a new awareness,” Mr. Escalante said. “We both had a similar vision in fitness. Our business will enhance his, and vice versa.” The new SportsPros home is something of a fitness utopia and includes a spacious rehabilitation area and two therapy rooms. The walls are lined with a framed collection of inspiring photographs, some taken during Mr. Escalante’s bodybuilding shows. SportsPros clients can take advantage of the weight
room and a cross-fit gym already established by Mr. Douglas. Mr. Escalante is also glad he and his team are now able to offer other fitness programs like Pilates and yoga. Last year, Mr. Escalante was nationally ranked at the Welter Weight USA Championships. He plans to re-enter this year’s competition in July at Las Vegas. He also won the 2013 LA Body Weights
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COURIER photos/Steven Felschundneff ABOVE: Participants in a little breakers volleyball class, for students up to 10, warm up on Monday at Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club in Claremont. RIGHT: Physical therapist Dee Tipton helps Lucy Munoz with her stretching exercises on Monday at SportsPros in Claremont. Her doctor referred Ms. Munoz to SportsPros because of debilitating back pain, which was preventing proper sleep. After a few weeks of therapy, she is able to sleep normally.
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Championship and the 2012 USA Light-Heavy Weight Division. Clients like Ms. Kokoul admire the time and effort Mr. Escalante has taken to learn and experience everything so he can share his fitness methods with Claremont. “He truly believes in it,” Ms. Kokoul said. “He wants to see the
best in us.” SportsPros and the Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club is located at 1599 Monte Vista Ave., Claremont. SportsPros can be reached at (909) 447-5724 or by visiting 4sportspros.com. Pacific Juniors Volleyball Club can be reached at (909) 3994093 or by visiting pacificjuniors.com.
—Alex Forbess firstname.lastname@example.org
Poet’s midlife marked by adventures, accolades
faa Michael Weaver— whose 2013 book The Government of Nature won him Claremont Graduate University’s Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award shortly after he turned 63—is no stranger to achievement later in life.
His fascination with Chinese culture started when he was 21 and working in a factory, writing in his spare time. Mr. Weaver was feeling torn up by past trauma and the recent death of a child when a co-worker handed him a copy of the Tao Te Ching. “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes,” advises the sage Lao Tzu, who is said to have authored the ancient text. “Don’t resist them. That only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” As he delved into Taoism, Mr. Weaver’s life began to feel like a meaningful continuum rather than a chaotic collection of experiences. A few years later, he began to practice tai chi. It wasn’t until 2001, however, when the poet was 50, that he decided to undertake a serious study of the Chinese language. “I thought, this is my midlife project. Maybe it will keep my brain active,” he said. Learning Mandarin proved useful as a series of doors opened for Mr. Weaver, each leading eastward. In 2002, he earned a Fulbright scholarship to teach in Taiwan. “I had a great time. As a teacher, they bow to you,” laughed Mr. Weaver, a tenured professor at Simmons College in Massachusetts. Alums of the Fulbright Program are encouraged to keep working in the region where they studied abroad. Mr. Weaver went back to Taiwan to host a poetry conference. He soon returned
COURIER photo/Steven Felschundneff Claremont Graduate University has selected Afaa Michael Weaver as the winner of the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his book “The Government of Nature.” The celebrated poet and academic is a true success story, having been a factory worker while building his writing career.
for a yearlong sabbatical. He attended a private language school and then ensconced himself in a monastery on the east coast of the island, practicing Taoist meditation and teaching tai chi to the resident nuns. “It’s a beautiful place, with the mountains as a backdrop. The Pacific Ocean is only 150 yards from the gate of the monastery,” Mr. Weaver said. Returning to English after months spent speaking and thinking in Chinese is a transformative experience, Mr. Weaver noted in an interview with the COURIER. “Chinese will alter your word order,” he said. Reading Mr. Weaver’s 12th collection of poetry, it is apparent that his word order has been altered for the better. Start with the lyricism of Chinese poetry. Add some gospel and blues, absorbed from parents who were working class but grew up farmers, and a little jazz for good measure. Throw in decades of struggle, viewed through the soft-focus of time and perspective. Take all that and you end up with The Government of Nature. The book and its author were feted at an April 10 ceremony held at Scripps College’s Balch Hall. The Kingsley Tufts Award didn’t just gain accolades for Mr. Weaver. The award, which is tendered annually to a mid-career poet who has achieved much and is expected to achieve much more, carries a $100,000 purse. It is the world’s largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry. Along with compassion and moderation, the virtue of humility is considered one of the “three jewels” of Iaoism. Mr. Weaver is accordingly humble when describing the impact of earning the Tufts prize. “It gives me more status in the poetry community. The ladies at Simmons KINGSLEY TUFTS continues on the next page
The Ten Thousand
by Afaa Michael Weaver The rain comes late, draws the afternoon into darkness, no light where there should be light, no way to be but drenched until it curves down over your lips. The taste of every living thing is in the rain drop the way all things open their eyes inside a single bloom in the garden that is now hushed in a robe. Whatever you feel about it, whether you live for it or pray for the rains to die, the water joins with all of us, tendon, bone, artery, vein, saliva, everything that melts and goes hard, escapes as air. The water brings a reunion for a moment with what we know each time we breathe ourselves here or are forced to breathe. If I write without color it is to obey the gray way rain brings the past to us. The ten thousand are one giant palace with a room for remembering, where you must stand alone, touch and believe while it seems you are touching nothing and have gone all mad in this life, this gift. We are sitting on a rock in the thick falling of water, purple lilies are growing in the sun's ocean shadow, sheep with golden wool are flying in the trees, a patient monkey is bandaging a wounded blade of grass, the garden is a mesa, seeds are mountain caves, the moon has gone infinite, made two of its own selves for each of our palms. Now we have faces.
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will be very happy I earned another measure of good grace,” he joked. His recent achievement, however, has spread his name far beyond Massachusetts. It has been noted in media outlets across the country and beyond. “I turned on the Internet and there’s so much about the factory worker winning the award. It was in the Daily Mail in the UK,” he marveled. All that attention can be overwhelming for a solitary soul like a poet. Like Lao Tzu’s famous axiom, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” however, the recognition has been a long time coming. Mr. Weaver began writing poems at age 17 while he was at the University of Maryland, his first efforts fueled by romantic longings. After two years at the university, Mr. Weaver was on break in his old Baltimore neighborhood when love stepped in again, derailing his academic career. “I saw her, the love of my life, on her way to the store to buy some candy,” he said. “I stood on the corner and asked her to marry me. It was like Romeo and Juliet.” Mr. Weaver traded his college career for marriage and a job in a steel facto-
Afaa Michael Weaver was recently awarded the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award for his book “The Government of Nature.”
ry. Then, with the Vietnam War raging, he joined the 342nd Army Security Agency as a reservist. When he got to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, a perfect storm was brewing. Tormented by half-buried memories of childhood sexual abuse and the death of his infant son, Mr. Weaver had a nervous breakdown. He was honor-
ably discharged and returned home, where he was hired on as a factory worker with Proctor & Gamble. Throughout his 15 years as a factory worker, a period he refers to as his “literary apprenticeship,” Mr. Weaver turned out poetry, worked as a freelance journalist and established a literary press called 7th Son. In 1985, he learned he had received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He left his job two days later. Shortly afterwards, he published his inaugural book of poetry, Water Song. Mr. Weaver returned to academic life when he entered the Brown University graduate writing program, with his studies funded by a full fellowship. After graduation, he taught as an adjunct professor before being hired on as a tenure-track professor at Rutger’s University. In 1996, Mr. Weaver became one of the founding faculty members at Cave Canem, an organization whose workshops and retreats are aimed at helping African American poets succeed at their craft. Mr. Weaver had come a long way from factory worker to respected mentor. Life, however, has a way of operating on the one step forward, two steps backwards principle. From 1998 to 1999, after years of therapy, Mr.
Weaver began to get in touch with memories of the abuse he endured at the hands of a relative. “It was like the ‘Prince of Tides,’” he recalled. “It was disturbing. I had halfmemories I started to fill in. My uncle emerged like a jack-in-the-box.” Poetry recalls you to sit quietly with your emotions and, in the wake of his psychological excavation, Mr. Weaver avoided writing for a couple of years. Delving into Chinese culture and philosophy again lifted his spirits, helping his writing to flourish and his past to make sense. He describes the process in “To Those Who Would Awaken,” one of the poems in The Government of Nature. “It happens, the stepping out, mind full of seeing/yourself move out into the world without difference/so you can see every move you make is a change/in the current, the arrangement of patterns under a brush/a twisted calligrapher’s stroke, all these things, walking/while the bones of who you are become roots.” The Government of Nature, the second in a trilogy that began with Mr. Weaver’s The Plum Flower Dance, is available from the University of Pittsburgh Press (upress.pitt.edu) and through Amazon.
—Sarah Torribio email@example.com
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