I know it's normal as one ages to forget anniversaries and birthdays, but I can't believe I forgot this one yesterday: It was my blog's first anniversary. If Suburban Bushwhacker hadn't pointed it out, who knows when it would've dawned on me.
It's a significant event for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it's easy to start a blog, but a lot of work to sustain one.
But I'd have to say my overwhelming feeling on this day is gratitude. Here's why:
When I was a kid, I decided to go into journalism because I loved writing. But 19 years in the newspaper business sucked the joy out of writing for me, because newspaper writing is, by necessity, quite restrictive. There are many rules and burdens in news writing, and the greatest one is that you must never allow your passions to show. And without passion, writing can be pretty boring - to the writer and the reader.
When I left the business in August 2006, I never looked back. Within a year, I bought a digital SLR camera and decided to focus on photography. If I never wrote again, I didn't care.
But I left the business to teach journalism, and one year ago, I found myself looking for ways to teach my students to present their writing more effectively on the web. I'd heard about Blogger and decided to use it to create a platform for some demonstrations for them.
It was the first Sunday in November, and I was working on my laptop in front of the fireplace while Boyfriend was - as always - working in the kitchen.
"Hey honey, I just started a blog for class, and it was pretty easy. I'm thinking about starting a blog of my own," I yelled over my shoulder. "What should I write about?"
He pondered the question for a second. "Why don't you write about being a woman hunter?" he yelled back.
Yep. I started this blog on a lark. But like the old Elvin Bishop song says, I fooled around and fell in love.
The name turned out to be not necessarily the best choice. Try spelling it out to someone over the phone. "N-O-R ... no, N as in Nancy ... N-O-R-C-A-L-C-A-Z-A ... no, Z as in zebra ... N-O-R-C-A-L-C-A-Z-A-D-O ... no, D as in dog ... N-O-R-C-A-L-C-A-Z-A-D-O-R-A."
And spelling it once is never enough, except for Spanish-speaking friends in Northern California who know that we live in NorCal and that a cazadora is a huntress.
But the decision to start NorCal Cazadora was one of the best of my life.
It beat the hell out of news writing because I could write about something I love and show every bit of passion I have for it. But it also allowed me to apply every good lesson I learned from newspaper journalism - basic research skills, data analysis, accuracy, clean writing, linking people to information and resources.
And it allowed me to interact with readers in a way I never could as a newspaper reporter. Not that I didn't field plenty of calls and emails from readers during my newspaper career, but on a blog, comments are a public conversation that usually enrich the original post. One year of interactions with you - blog readers - has been more gratifying than 19 years of that limited, stilted conversation I could have with newspaper readers.
This blog has also allowed me to immerse myself actively in thoughts about why I hunt.
When I took up hunting in 2006, I fell in love with it immediately and learned very quickly that it had little to do with any of the stereotypes I'd always associated with hunting. So, of course it bothered me that the non-hunting public's image of what we do is so completely out of whack with the hunting experience. I realized the blog could be an important venue for explaining and defending hunting to those who know little or nothing about it.
And once I accepted that challenge, it forced me to think very deeply about what I do so I could articulate it clearly. And it made me pick up the books and essays and research of those writer-hunters who have come before me - Jose Ortega y Gasset, Aldo Leopold, Mary Zeiss Stange, James Swan, David Petersen. Imagine my pleasure when I learned that some of these people were members of the outdoor blogging community, such as Chas Clifton and Stephen Bodio.
Blogging, though, has not just been a gift to my mind or a virtual connection to people I'll never meet. After my first year of hunting, in which I often hunted alone, I now find myself blessed with hunting friends I've met through this blog:
Phillip at The Hog Blog was one of my earliest commenters. I joined him this summer on my first hog hunt ever (Phillip is shown in the middle of this photo from that hunt, with Hunting with Jim vloggers John on the left and Jim on the right). On that trip, Phillip also introduced me to Michael at Native Hunt, where I've now hunted several times. He also put me on the ProStaff at Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors, which sent me to the SHOT Show in February, where I met three women who've started women's hunting clothing companies.
Then there was Dana, who read my blog and emailed to tell me she's searched high and low for women to hunt ducks with her and do you want to go hunting sometime? Oh, hell yeah! And hunt we did - my post about hunting with Dana and two other women friends over Bald Pete the traveling wigeon decoy is one of my most popular posts ever (second only to one about adding my women's hunting clothing list to my navbar, which shows you how eager women are for this information).
Next came Tracey, whose ex-husband read about my first hunt with Dana and said, "Hey, you oughtta hunt with my ex!" We did, and though it was not a glorious hunt, it was the beginning of a great friendship. Two weekends ago, we hunted the Klamath Basin together. Now that was glorious.
And it led to more: Tracey is on the board of California Waterfowl, so she introduced me to key players there. Now I write for the organization's magazine and volunteer for its Women's Outdoor Connections committee. And oh yeah, I'm going to be the faculty adviser now for a new chapter of California Waterfowl that a student duck hunter is forming at my university. And did I mention all the duck hunting friends I've met in this organization? I'll be hunting with one of them on Sunday.
All those connections happened in my first three months of blogging, but it just keeps going.Rebecca of the Operation Desert Dove blog used to live in Southern California, but she just took a job up here, and it turns out she found a place about two miles from my house. Rebecca's hardcore: She hunts ducks with falcons. I met her - and the birds - on Friday, and we chatted away about falconry and hunting and duck recipes while trick-or-treaters kept a steady drumbeat on her door.
OK, now I'm afraid I'm going to leave someone out and feel like an even bigger dope today. But suffice it to say that there are even more folks in the blogosphere that I hope to meet and hunt with someday - Sten at Suburban Bushwhacker. Tom at Base Camp Legends. Terry at the Women's Hunting Journal. Blessed. Kristine. Marian. Rex. Othmar. Albert. Kim. Jon. Keli. And all the lurkers who email me once in a while to let me know they're reading.
Is it making sense now, why I feel so grateful? I started this thing on a lark. I fell in love with the blog, and in the process fell in love again with writing. I was enriched by all the great thinkers of hunting. I began meeting all these amazing people in the outdoor blogging community - most of us drawn together by the Outdoor Bloggers Summit (which is probably the only reason anyone found me in the first place).
So, thanks. Thanks to all of you for being part of something that has been so incredibly meaningful to me. I look forward to the amazing discoveries that are sure to fill my second year as a blogger.
© Holly A. Heyser 2008