Featured Blog: Xenogere

Welcome, everyone, and please meet this week’s featured blogger, from Xenogere. Jason, introduce yourself.

My name is Jason Hogle and I live in Dallas, Texas.  I travel as often as I can, yet I spend a great deal of time enjoying the unending parade of life that resides in or migrates through this state.  I’m a published nature photographer even though it’s not my day job.  You can read more about me at http://xenogere.com/about/me/

Jason, why do you blog?

I’ve kept a personal journal for more than thirty years.  It’s always been a way to document my world both visually and textually; it’s also been a great way to exercise my writing, something I love as much as I love nature photography.

So in 2002 I decided to create a blog where I could share the sharable from my journal.  I felt pretty certain at the time that my mother would be the only person reading it, give or take a few friends; it therefore seemed like an easy way to bring kith and kin along on my journey through life.  The way I looked at it, they’d see one of two things: a horrifying example of the capricious mayhem bubbling up inside my head, or a bounty of nature’s wonders that I constantly discovered and rediscovered.  Now I’m pretty sure they see both.

What do you like most and least about blogging?

There’s so much to love about blogging: making new friends and meeting people with similar interests, the constant challenge to learn, a compulsion to write well and improve my photography, helping others see what too often goes unnoticed, an overwhelming sense of community from other bloggers who teach me more than they can possibly know, and the unflinching drive to keep looking, to keep searching for the next gem. But the best thing?  I don’t worry about being something I’m not.  My blog is a “what you see is what you get” representation of the person behind the keyboard.  I don’t feel compelled to play to an audience; the only sense of obligation I have is to do what I love to do.

But the other side of that blade is daunting: unnecessary self-imposed schedules that have no respect for reality, the false need to post even when I haven’t anything of interest to say or show, and the omnipresent fight against comment spam and trolls.  But the worst thing?  I hate to post anything that I can’t ID, so there are times when I spend far too long trying to put a name with a face, a flower or a fungus, and I wind up beating my head against the wall thinking I’ll never get to show that photo or tell that tale.  Then I remember it’s OK to say something is unidentified.  That word’s a familiar friend in science, so why should I fear it?

Has blogging changed how you think about nature? or how you write?

After more than seven years, I still look at blogging as a personal endeavor, not a public effort.  To me it’s a piece of my journal, something I do for myself.  In that way it’s changed nothing about how I write or photograph…other than giving me the exercise I need to improve both.

On the contrary, I think nature has changed the way I think about blogging–the writing and the photography.  I originally felt no compulsion to do more than proffer online the offline tidbits I felt were appropriate.  Then the constant draw of universal bounty that rests right outside my door offered a mystical enchantment that I wanted–maybe even needed–to share with others.  It’s still a diary of the man behind the curtain; it’s just that the diary has taken on a life of its own because of the influence and power of nature.

How do you promote your blog and attract readers?

I don’t.  It shocked the heck out of me when the first stranger left a comment.  I wondered how they could’ve found me and why they bothered to remark on something.  Since I never blogged for any reason other than personal, having people visit was a gift, not a goal.  I’ll never bother keeping track of who’s visiting or who’s commenting.  The moment I get tied up worrying about stats is the moment I realize I’m blogging for the wrong reasons.

Is there a story behind the name of your blog?

When I first started blogging, I used a domain based on my real name–jasonhogle.com–so it was easy for family and friends to find, especially since that was the only target audience I ever cared about. But since my blog is an extension of me, I became worried that expressing myself would cause problems given the ease with which someone could find me.  I was working at very high levels for companies that lacked a sense of humor, companies too indulged in their own political machinations to be understanding about the personal lives of their employees.  I ultimately decided to hide behind a new domain name where I could be pseudonymous.  Years later that changed again when I realized I wasn’t worried about who found me, but by then the domain was established and moving it was out of the question.

The word itself–xenogere–I made up by combining two Latin words: (meaning strange or alien) and agere (meaning to do or act).  In my mind it represented my proclivity for being my own person, what many have considered strange behavior.  I was raised very conservative, very religious and very dominant over nature, all of which represent me about as much as a rabid dog represents harmony.  I’ve spent decades working in a field I dislike because it’s so far removed from what I’m most passionate about.  I’m a huge geek, yet I can be poetically creative when it comes to nature.  So the name stuck as a representation of–again–the man behind the curtain.

Do you feel you’re part of a community with other nature bloggers?

My goodness yes!  I wish I could say that was my goal.  It wasn’t. Nevertheless, through blogging I’ve met people I can’t imagine not knowing.  They teach me, guide me, inspire me.  I never felt I was applying for membership in a group, yet here I am, a better man for those I’ve met via this medium.  Ted, Amber, Pam, Mary, Jill, Nate, Larry, Scott, Chris, Julie, Seabrooke, Liz, Jain, Alex…  Dare I go on?  The list feels innumerable at best.  I only wish I had more time to keep up with more blogs because so many beautiful people out there fill my soul with their creativity and their boundless appreciation of the world around us.

Any words of wisdom for new nature bloggers?

It’s about passion.  No linguistic legerdemain or picture-perfect propensity or scientific superiority will make you more interesting than a blank sheet of paper if you lack passion for your subject.  Someone who loves their backyard birds will make predictable avifauna a breathless discovery with each post.  Someone who never tires of learning about one more flower will always have a bouquet of beauty to show for it.  And someone who sees in every beetle a profound example of diversity will overwhelm the senses.

If you play to an audience or if you don’t, if you never leave your back yard or if you travel the world, if you’re all about words or all about pictures, or if you want to talk research or want to talk flipping rocks while on a hike, be sure you blog from the heart.  Anyone can blog, but it takes someone with real passion about their subject to keep people engaged and coming back.  Blogging for the sake of blogging is as interesting as reading the phone book; blogging for the sake of passion is an unending world of joy.

Why are you passionate about nature?

Mom.  Yes, my mother taught me that the cosmos hides in plain sight, an unending world of mysteries that needs not be feared but instead needs to be discovered.  Nothing in nature fails to intrigue her, fails to give her pause, fails to make her ask questions about how and why and what.  And she also taught me that we have a responsibility to safeguard what can’t be replaced, a responsibility to protect and honor and cherish.  When it comes to paying attention to that which surrounds us, that which birthed us, that which sustains us and clothes us and feeds us, I thank Mom for nurturing within me the spirit of an explorer, the heart of a poet and the mind of a bookworm.  Most importantly, I thank her for showing me that everything is beautiful in its own way–except crickets, at least according to her.  She has a thing about crickets. But don’t tell her I said as much.

Thank you, Jason.

11 Comments

  1. March 29, 2010 at 10:48 AM | Permalink

    I discovered Jason’s blog about a year ago – such a rare combination of intellect, perspective, and artistic talent. It has been near the top of my must-read list ever since.

  2. March 29, 2010 at 11:15 AM | Permalink

    So glad to see Jason profiled. He’s been a great addition to the blogging community, not least for the creation of his co-run herp carnival.

    And look at the legs on that robin! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a bad case of pox on a robin. Normally it’s blackbirds who seem to suffer from it the worst.

  3. March 29, 2010 at 2:02 PM | Permalink

    Jason is as fine a photographer as he is a writer, which is a potent combination. I’ve only been aware of his blog in the last six months or so, but it’s one of my favorites. I’m always happy when he shows up in my feed reader.

  4. Annette Moellering
    March 29, 2010 at 2:33 PM | Permalink

    Great pictures! What lens were you using? Your pics are magnificiant!! I love wildlife and receintly purchased a 50mm macro lens. Last year, I used my 70-300 to get pics, then I put them on my computer and draw them in a little closer, is this what you did? Also, do you shoot in raw of jpeg?

  5. March 29, 2010 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

    Jason definitely deserves a feature, thanks for this – his blog is an excellent mix of nature photography and beautiful words. I enjoy everything that shows up on his blog.

  6. March 29, 2010 at 7:18 PM | Permalink

    A fine feature on a fine blog… one of my favorites!

  7. March 29, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Permalink

    Jason, my friend, wonderful interview. When I first came across your blog (I can’t even remember when/how), I quickly realized that you approach nature very much like I do. You drink in everything with wonder, curiosity, and delight. Your photography is so outstanding, that I referred someone to your Photography 101 series for tips and advice. And I am always amazed at the deeply personal thoughts you so bravely share with the world.

    I came to depend on you to ID anything I couldn’t or didn’t want to spend the time on – since you’re banging your head against the wall anyway. :-)

    Thank you so much for co-creating House of Herps and sharing duties. I could not have done it alone.

    Finally, thanks for stepping out from behind your curtain to meet me. I hope to see you again soon.

  8. March 30, 2010 at 12:39 PM | Permalink

    Thank you for the generous and warm comments! There could be no better proof of what makes this such a fantastic community. I’m honored to be a part of your world and I’m grateful you’re a part of mine.

    Seabrooke: You’re one of only two people who recognized the avian foot pox on the robin. That photo is from last year’s outbreak study at the rookery near downtown.

    Annette: You’re too kind! I’m glad you like the photos. They were all taken with telephoto lenses (I don’t use macro lenses, at least not yet). Most are from a 400mm lens, though a few are with a 250mm lens. And I shoot in RAW. I can’t always guarantee I’m taking the photo I want, but at least with RAW there’s hope of salvaging it later.

    Amber: I’m laughing about the IDs! You’re such a clever lass. And it was my pleasure meeting you and giving you the five-cent tour of the rookery. I can’t wait to take you back in the near future when it’s once again an incomprehensible place of magic.

  9. April 1, 2010 at 2:35 PM | Permalink

    Glorious, as is your blog.

  10. April 2, 2010 at 9:26 AM | Permalink

    You’re much too kind, Julie. Thank you!

  11. April 5, 2010 at 8:55 PM | Permalink

    Jason combines the very best of two worlds: engaging nature (and beyond) writing and jawdropping photography. I’m grateful to have found Xenogere and I’m pleased to read a little more about the man behind the curtain here. Thank you for the interview, wren.