PORT TOWNSEND — Velda Thomas reveals much in the pages of her book. And all through it, she opens up space for her reader to write, draw and remember.
“Blended: Perspectives on Belonging” is Thomas’ participatory notebook of poems, short stories — and open-ended questions about passion, unconditional love, healing, art and ancestors. Thomas asks herself the big ones such as “Who am I?” and then, on the next page, presents blank space above another question.
Where do you find joy?
Where do you give joy?
What can you reclaim that has been lost?
Describe the place you feel most at home?
Thomas, a 15-year resident of Port Townsend, will discuss “Blended” in a free online talk at 7 p.m. Thursday via the Port Townsend Library website, ptpubliclibrary.org.
The library also will host an online discussion group in February, Black History Month, with facilitator Tonia Burkett of Usawa Consulting; for details, check the library website’s Calendar page, where the three-Saturday group has its first meeting Feb. 12. The library can be reached at 360-385-3181.
“Blended” is soul work. It contains Thomas’ reflections on family, especially her grandmother; on being a “brown Brownie,” the only Girl Guide with dark skin; on a friendship with a white woman who’d never spent time with a Black woman before.
She reflects on her identity as a biracial human. She wonders about her tribe.
“Where are they?” Thomas asks early in the book.
More questions: What toxic messages did you receive in your childhood? What have you learned about beauty? Where is your passion visible to the world? How do you prioritize your joy?
Thomas puts each one in context with short pieces about her own life. The pages also bear woodcut prints by the author, who is now doing a Centrum artist residency at Fort Worden State Park.
A horsewoman, she’s working on an oracle deck of cards on the theme of equine wisdom.
“I have so many things I love and want to explore,” said Thomas, who as a girl growing up outside London wanted to be a painter.
Her family urged her to choose an occupation they believed would provide a more stable livelihood, so she went to college to study fashion design.
Thomas later came to live in Seattle; she and her husband moved to the North Olympic Peninsula to raise their children in a rural place.
Her professions since have included teaching at Sunfield Farm & Waldorf School in Port Hadlock, serving as a birth doula and now working as a massage therapist in Port Townsend.
“Blended” started as a self-healing endeavor. In it, Thomas delves into generational trauma; her desire to please others and the often-heard question, “What are you, anyway?”
“It wasn’t easy for me to write this book,” Thomas said.
“Blended” was a work she needed to finish on her own terms, so she chose to self-publish, naming her imprint Stardust Press.
Readers may find some — many — of the stories and questions tough to see. Pace yourself, Thomas advises.
“There’s a time for everything to be received,” she said.
Reading something that triggers or affects you can make you want to put it out of your mind. Thomas’ question: “Can I sit with my discomfort with that,” and see what comes through?
“For myself, my biggest development as a person has been the ability to turn toward something,” rather than away from it, even when that thing makes her squirm.
“Blended” is available at Imprint Books and Seal Dog Coffee in Port Townsend and via Thomas’ website, veldathomas.com.
After the table of contents, the author offers “suggestions for personal truth telling throughout this text”:
“Do not police or censor yourself. There is no right or wrong way to express.”
“Be in observation of outdated beliefs and habits.
“When the inner critic begins to speak, push back, assert a boundary and continue to express.”
“Try to replace judgment with interest.”
The book’s dedication comes first, though. It’s classic Thomas poetry.
“May we live to feel one another’s truths.
“May we live to hear change coming.
“May we live to smell the scent of freedom.”
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]