Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota

Trances- part book review, part love story

Happy New Year! Yes, so much darkness and warmth and cold and frozen water and intimacy alongside infinite amounts of solo time. I’m making the internal climb that creates space for sex and art and pleasure activism and closeness while spending every possible moment getting intimate with new love and our snowy landscape alongside my dog Bat.

Yes, I’ve engaged in a new romance (Locally! delicious) and been graced by infinite amounts of literary goodness. I’m currently reading Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas Days- 12 Stories and 12 Feast for 12 Days, Jill Soloway’s She Wants It and Myriam Gurba’s Mean. All shed light on the power of connective pleasure- with self, community and subversive creativity.

The things I love most about  the intersection of art, love, activism, and this other-worldly time of year are the trance like places I go. Emotionally, mentally and physically the end of 2018 propelled me forward like no other late fall ever has. While most parts of my being normally resist winter, decorated with new love this year, I sashayed into our most introspective season. Kissing and sex and intimacy and literature help so much during all times -especially this season. It’s important to be lifted above the dark, the negative-degree days, and the dogged voices in my head barking, “Isolate”.

Imagine the opposite. I lock lips with my new love and am entranced for hours. Time stops. I careen to other light filled, temperate places while still right there with her body. I want to go everywhere and nowhere. We imagine new ways of strengthening community

Trance is defined in multiple ways. The trances I’ve experienced the last several months seem like a crunching together of a couple dictionary meanings. From a “type of electronic dance music with a repetitive hypnotic beat” to “a state of rapture or exaltation in which someone loses consciousness” to “a situation in which someone is stunned and in some way unaware of the environment or unable to respond to stimuli”. However, I’d flip that last part a bit- in these trances with her I have heightened consciousness. All parts of my being responding to stimuli. Reverie as idle and pleasure filled “contemplation” become deepest of engaging games.

Queue art imitating life. All three writers above weave in stories about contemplation, pleasure, trance and ritual. I’m drinking in their words as I dream into this love.

Jill Soloway, creator and producer of Transparent, shares how they use repetitive, creative practice to achieve a calm state of mind and change the gender-binaried culture.

Winterson’s 12 stories illustrate how our end of year holidays are gift giving. She says, “Mid-winter festival, days of feasting, warmth, relaxation, cheer, contemplation, singing, charity, kindness and some kind of focus, protect the mind from depression and despair, not least because of the story it tells; of hope and new beginnings. And because communities are essential for mental and emotional health.”

One of Jeanette’s characters, an early 20th century mountain climber, states, “People feel light-hearted on mountains because the physical world de-materializes. We are not the dimensional objects we believe ourselves to be.”

Spooning in closer to said love, I feel this. Our trance shifts the solid ideas I have about myself, the world, pleasure, and the limitations of togetherness. I’m simultaneously taken out of what I know, held tightly by some sort of love knowing, justice seeking magic, and offered an opportunity to explore the mystery of closeness.

Myriam Gurba’s Mean throws me right back into the physical. In her coming of age, coming out memoir, she writes as a queer, mixed race Chicana growing up on the west coast. Gurba’s edgy prose challenges everything while racing to find pleasure and community where nothing seems pleasurable or connective. My adolescence too was about letting go of home while trying to hold onto a crumbling family- with bloody hands and heart. Myriam’s younger self does something similar as she reckons with racism and homophobia in the US.

Reading Gurba’s memoir, my queering, poetic, politicizing, high school senior self is here with me as I step into the trance of new love, curious about it all- especially how our minds, emotions and bodies work together. In Mean, everything from identity to the smells of sex are present,

“Can you smell yourself? I can usually smell myself, but sometimes I can’t. I’ve heard some people say that different races have different smells. If you’re interracial, do you have a blended fragrance. My crotch has a blended fragrance. I love the way it smells, especially when it hasn’t been washed in a few days. It smells like life, ocean, baked goods and shawarma.” 

This trance I’ve stepped into alongside an amazing person, feels like an invitation to deeply engage ‘life, ocean, baked goods and shawarma’ during all seasons. Yes everything is always pulsing, and I am riding the steady throb of winter.


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