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

Noticing & Not Noticing, Small Cities & the Seasonal Erotic

I read a poem last night by Tim Upperton. He closes with “her wet mouth a dark, soundless O, and the crowd/not unsympathetically parting/and reforming around her-rock in the river-/noticing and not noticing, which is our way.”

 With those four words, noticing and not noticing, I paused, stared at myself, and immediately took inventory of what I’ve noticed this year. First, my grief and the political pain of 2018. Second, my own whiteness and white fragility (thanks to strong new work on this topic- especially this podcast and book. Must note, in Duluth, heavy with Scandinavian influence, our white culture is rooted in not noticing. Whiteness is everywhere, normalized by every institution and in cahoots with long winters that turns many folx inside out six to seven months of the year.).

I’m also noticing the cold fall air and fierce winds on my skin, shoulder muscles ratcheting in. Noticed-new courage to wrestle with long, deeply held beliefs of lack that come from my bio family.  Noticed- what next questions sprinkled everywhere, especially artistically and professionally. I’m noticing the Chinese elements reflected in this witchy weird time of year- trees bare, lake like metal. I’m noticing a beloved community take shape in Duluth like the one I’ve dreamed of for eighteen years.

The inverse of noticing, not noticing, calls out the contrast between summer and fall in my home. As more and more dark descends on us in northern Minnesota (I’m writing this post at 7am and it’s still pitch black outside), a blinding spotlight illuminates certain profane aspects of my life- this love affair with the wild+writing, my physical well being, finances, friendships and work. Other details dip into the shadows. Sex, romance, crushes, and physical intimacy take a backseat while intellectual and creative passions expand and burn bright. Fascinated, I ask, “where is the erotic in the differences between not noticing and noticing?”.

 With a fair amount of loss in 2018, I’ve allowed myself to dig deep into fear and aversion. This year has taught me mountains about opening to grief and other raw sensations without labeling them “good” or “bad”. Even when I’ve felt the urge to draw back, I’ve consistently moved forward and stayed with the feelings. Using this practice, I’ve learned what Pema Chodron calls “the fundamental ambiguity of human nature.”

 Pema continues, “Boddhicitta- a longing to be free- is a trust in our innate ability to go beyond bias and fixed opinions, and open our hearts to every person and thought: those we like, those we don’t like, those we don’t even notice.”

Back to noticing… and thoughts about people. Thoughts about other bodies, others’ sensuality and smartness. I already sense a heightened awareness of eros with the start of this new month. Audre Lorde writes, “ The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling.” Hmmm, the erotic is the unnoticed?

 The Minnesotan-ed up parts of me rather enjoy some parts of not noticing. The above erotic sensations are exhausting. Scary. Possible causes of conflict and friction in this small community. I’m already worn out by internal contemplation about chemistry with another and what ifs. The sheer singular focus on work last month was delightful. Now feelings, not grief related, noticed. Light and flighty, fiery and wild. A draw to another. Ahh I’m erotically alive again. I feel an attraction to. A swelling of my heart and parts whenever I think of her, them, the taut elastic electricity in new and old connections.

 Yes, October has ended, November begins after costumes, candy, and performance, new beginnings and the celebration of the crone. Samhain, the Halloweened up holiday that celebrates the pagan new year and veil between the worlds at its thinnest, allows us to reach beyond what is normally perceivable to the senses. I’m aware. Hyperaware. Noticing the seasonal erotic.

And soon winter will stretch herself out, become a season of yearning for skin/sun on skin contact. We begin to notice and create every opportunity possible to touch the details of one another again, figure out best how to be both alive and frozen.

Four winters and counting in Duluth after escaping south from 2012-2014. It’s taken me this long to remember the rhythms of our seasonal year and place/chart the erotic on my calendar. 2018 has scraped my insides clean, cracked opened my head and heart. I’ve noticed dramatic changes in myself. I’m noticing so much new even in a place I know so well. And I sense what is left unnoticed, still mysterious, to be discovered. Yes yes Duluth the erotic is our way.


The Ultimate Union and Uses of the Erotic

Who Am I? Who Are My People?