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

Love in a Small City

Crushing out on someone is like allowing a potent spice/smell infuse your clothes, furniture and hair. You can smell it everywhere you go- in your bed and work day and home and studio. It can seep into everything. It can annoy the hell out of everybody.

Crushes can be comforting and expansive. Allow you to tap parts of yourself ready to explode into being and confront the world.

Crushes in small cities are gateway drugs and narrow winding roads. Both dangerous. Every one knows everybody. If you don’t work with a crush you know someone who does.

Crushing out is like writing a first draft of an essay or blog post. You aren’t striving for perfection you just have a feeling, you decide whether to follow it, you let your writing flow. There is freedom in front of you on the page. You don’t have to worry about what other people think. You say it like it is.

Love is like submitting a final draft. You read it over and over again. Then share it for others to enjoy and respond to. It becomes a collaborative effort.

The crushes remind me of windsurfing. The sport isn’t fun or possible without wind. And of course gear. I’ve always had both available to me most days I’ve been interested in surfing. I’ve never owned gear so I’ll practice a couple times a summer and then not windsurf the rest of the year. I have pools of fun pulling myself up on the board and using every muscle in my body to hoist the brightly colored sail up into the sky and scooting across the surface of the water. Then I’ll fall and begin again.

I never have to worry about navigating my way home, all the way across the lake. I’m not that good. I stay pretty close to my family’s cottage on a small lake in western New York state. I do it casually, have giant amounts of fun, and a family member close by who is a friendly expert coaches me and of course tows me back in if needed.

It is a safe sport. So is crushing. I’m not shy, I’ll  let people know how I feel and compliment the hell out of them.

Loving though is different. I’m open, willing and capable of loving multiple people at one time. So fear of commitment isn’t a restraint. I love the unknown in crushing, the new, the adventure, the terrain to explore in another. Loving though is like writing something and sharing it. One must trust that it’s good enough to put out into the world. And life in a small city may bring you much closer to one’s critics than in an urban metropolis.

Yet loving is like writing and surfing, are we doing it to be good or be the most ordinary we can possibly be? To stretch our hearts and the hearts of our communities.

There is something that feels consistently expansive in crushes. Love can feel constrictive. Last night at a beautiful valentine’s day concert, I listened to two bands and loved them both. Room in my night and holiday and heart for them. The different sound and style and look. The new and old.

There is ego in love too. Who am I most proud to wear on my arm out in my community.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Can’t I just go with the feeling. There’s too much assessment. The feeling is loving.  As I love I bless the world, so I love both bands. And I love both homes. And I love windsurfing and running. And I love and crush. The new and the old. Allow the two to blend. Confident knowing what both lend me and the world.

Love in a small city asks us to be expert crushers and lovers. Guide ourselves and others back across big and small lakes when we get carried away by the wind. It does feel like there’s not much room for error. But to windsurf, is to stand up on the board and be willing to be moved across the water of our home and ourselves. To fall and get back up again. Ask for help.

Like writing, there is vulnerability in loving. And I’ve seen my northern self as this fortress against showing my loving, writing self- deep, crushing and creating. But really I expose those parts of myself all the time. I bless my home all the time with my love. These stories. New always being written and shared. Old idea that the small city and I have created a impenetrable fortress/wall together against a long, deep, delicious love and artistic success is over. Finis. Boring as hell. As is the fear of making mistakes or being cold hearted. All my warmest, softest, fiercest parts are chanting and sailing across my favorite water.

Do it! Crush, sail, write, come home again, Love. Even here in our small city. Especially here in my small city.



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