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


My current lover is contemplating the adoption of a dog. We went together last night to our local humane society, Animal Allies, to meet a small shepherd mix we nicknamed Pirate.

We recently continued conversation about having an open relationship and decided when we’re physically together we’re fully together, present, committed and when we’re apart we’re open to other goodness the glittering multi-verses might bestow upon us.

So I find it incredibly interesting that her seriously contemplating taking this dog home brings up fear and concern for me. Mainly I feel trepidation about the insanely delicious magic of us (us being a fairly new phenomenon) shifting with an additional responsibility in the mix.

I’m a dog person. I have been all my life. I’ve loved up dogs since I was sixteen- with a break the four years I was in college and the two years I spent summers biking across the country. However, every rewarding relationship with a canine companion has equaled only having a single dog in the mix at a time.

Commitment is both a beautiful and weighty thing. Our culture speaks of it as regal, right, the natural thing to do as we age. And while I sing praises daily to and for my sweet pup Lichen, the adults around me without dogs and kids who are making the most of their chosen freedom inspire me. They are the exception. A glimpse at the masses and my intimate circles, it seems it’s much easier to crowd one’s life than to not crowd or try to de-clutter.

I love spaciousness. I live four blocks from Lake Superior. This great lake moves me on the daily because of her impossible to develop square area, shifting colors, dramatic shifts in mood in minutes flat, invitations to swim during warmer months. Its surface and shorelines change constantly too yet the hugeness and horizon where water meets sky is a constant. Yes, wide wide water is my thing. Always has been, I believe, always will be.

Similar to my chosen landscape, I love creating and living in luxurious, spacious, unscheduled days. I look out into my circles of fabulous people and most others have lives dictated by calendars and clocks. I’ve never wanted children and part of this choice equals not being crowded by responsibility, tasks, activities, toys, clothes,etc. or beholden to another.

I also believe this is why I enjoy being solo. I build beautiful relationships with lovers and friends and family and am my own person. The life I live is roomy and broad in scope. While I have a dog, he enjoys staying with friends who adore him while I travel away from my home on a bigLake for a week or two at a time.

I have many close friends, including my bestie of 35 years, who thrive with full, packed, seemingly overcrowded lives. Multiple dogs, marriage, house, cars, civic commitments, constant dinner dates, mounds of electronics. My dog, my creative work, my job, my activism, my meditative practice, my radical community and my romps in the wilds are enough for me. Recently adding a deliciously grounded, sassy, huge hearted lover has perfected the balance. And labeling our relationship “open”, queering our love, creates further opportunity to not be crowded by traditional notions of togetherness and move freely in the creation of something new, different, luxurious, luscious, sex-ed up and specific to us. Queering equals creating opportunities to flirt and play (fucking is a different energy- includes love and commitment for me) with others who continue to expand my realities.

The working definition of expand is make bigger. As I feel my life become larger, I find myself asking what to do with more space, more smarts, more strength to feel and create and share love. Adding another person or dog may not feel “crowded” in the way I’ve been afraid of since there literally is more to not just fill, but use creatively and experience incredible beauty in.

Our lives contract and expand constantly. I feel mine doing so currently at a steady and sustainable pace. As this shift occurs, I want to ask superb questions. Questions that have sex and adventure and art and wellbeing and writing and relationships and wildspace and creating family right in the center.

When my lover and I talk about open relationships, I say I want to learn “my capacity to love”. I want to challenge personal, old, limiting notions that I don’t have enough time or energy to grow the potential and power of my heart. I want to hold my personal preference for spaciousness and solitude and radical community building and gender/sexual advocacy right next to my hunger for beauty and meaningful, fun, delightful connection.

I love how well rested and content I feel on most days. Within the context of my created life, I have room to work hard and enjoy spontaneous, beautiful “distractions”. This amount of content and connection serves me well, equals me feeling productive, poised, and free.

In the center, is my wild, beating, beginners mind heart. Present with what I love in every moment if I allow it to be. Sex for me right now is an expression of my amazing appetite, appreciation, and delight in another person. Someone I love and like.

To have sex with anyone else may crowd the equation. To add another dog may have the same effect. However, right now I sense the space I can create internally, and allow it to work its magic out in the world. This is my most important commitment. This is the roots, the wings, the water of my capacity to love. I trust it and fear it- revel in the mystery of what I do and don’t know.


Queering My Community

Why Not? Lots of Intimacy