The sun rises, the sun sets

1. One day in Hernando County, in December 2006 in the St. Pete Times:

Out on U.S. 301 in the county's rural east end, the bands of brush-stroke orange seemed to come from the tops of the trees and push the fog down close to the ground. The sun came up over the slow hills and the fat live oaks and the fences made of wire and wood. It was 7:14.

"Just the coffee?" said the clerk at the Circle K at 301 and State Road 50.

2. One day in Alabama, this week in Sports Illustrated:

You get 29,000 mornings, if your life is the average length, and some of those mornings follow sleepless nights, and sometimes your head feels like broken glass, and sometimes you rise in a stumbling frenzy because every minute you spend getting ready is one more minute you're late for work.

But once in a while you have another kind of morning: charged with anticipation, alive with possibility, and you get out of bed thinking maybe today will be incredible. In Alabama they get this feeling on Iron Bowl Day, two days after Thanksgiving. This state has more college football fans per capita than any other state, and these fans wait all year for the day the Auburn Tigers play the Alabama Crimson Tide.

"If your team wins," says David Housel, former Auburn athletic director, "you're a better person on Monday than you were on Friday. You're certainly better than the person whose team lost.

"That's how people feel, and that's why it's so big, and sometimes so poisonous."

On Nov. 30, 2013, Alabama is No. 1 in the country. Auburn is No. 4. The two teams have never been this good on the day of the game, which means very few mornings in Alabama history have been so charged with anticipation.

The first rays of the sun cross the Chattahoochee River at 6:20 a.m., in a forest at the southeastern corner of Alabama.


Cheryl Strayed in Smithsonian

The question: Why do you think people who feel lost are often drawn to the natural world?

Her answer: "In nature there is constant evidence of destruction and rejuvenation. It's proof that we're all part of the web of living things that's greater than our own small lives. People feel a sense of belonging, rather than isolation."


This month's Findings

Three things I underlined in the new Harper's:

1. A male flamingo in Mississippi died of injuries sustained while defending its mate from members of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

2. Concerned American consumers will pay an additional 16 cents for eco-friendly ornamental plants.

3. Momentary human happiness is determined not by actual outcomes but by whether outcomes exceed expectations.


What I wrote about the FSU shooting

Today on 1A:

TALLAHASSEE — Student Jason Derfuss walked with books in his backpack out the front of Florida State University's Strozier Library just before 12:30 early Thursday morning and heard a shot behind him. He turned and watched a man with a gun five feet away fire twice more, straight and close into the torso of another person, who collapsed. Derfuss ran.

Inside, on the first floor of the crowded building, a group of Delta Alpha Chi sorority sisters were sitting together and working on papers for classes about religion when they heard shots, too.

They and hundreds of other students scattered, diving under desks, cowering under tables, hiding in rows of shelves, sprinting down stairs, up stairs, toward far walls and dark corners, screaming about a shooter, leaving behind computers, keys and shoes, barricading room doors with carrels and chairs.

Keep reading. And read this, too, by Lisa Gartner, Michael LaForgia and Mike Van Sickler. It's so good.


What We See When We Read

Picked up this book the other day at Powell's in Portland. Nine things I underlined on the plane back to Tampa:

1. Characters are ciphers. And narratives are made richer by omission.

2. It's how characters behave, in relation to everyone and everything in their fictional, delineated world, that ultimately matters.

3. All books open in doubt and dislocation.

4. We perform a book — we perform a reading of a book. We perform a book, and we attend the performance.

5. Are the muscles we use to imagine growing weaker as our culture ages? Before the age of photography and film did we picture better, more clearly than we do now? Our mnemonic skills are atrophying and I wonder if our visual creativity might be as well. Our culture's visual overstimulation is widely discussed, and the conclusions drawn from the fact of this overstimulation are alarming. (Our imaginations are dying, some say.) Whatever the relative health of our imaginations, we still read. The rapid proliferation of the image has not kept us from the written word. And we read because books bestow upon us unique pleasures; pleasures that films, television, and so on cannot proffer.

Books allow us certain freedoms — we are free to be mentally active when we read; we are full participants in the making (the imaginging) of a narrative.

Of, if it is true that we cannot advance beyond a vague sketchiness in our imaginings, then maybe this is a crucial component of why we love written stories. Which is to say that sometimes we only want to see very little.

6. We desire the fluidity and vagary that books grant us when we imagine their content. Some things we do not wish to be shown.

7. Words are like arrows — they are something, and they point toward something.

8. ... we push an attribute of theirs to the fore; we "foreground" a piece of them and then let that piece suffice.

9. Through reduction, we create meaning.


Lisa Lucas in Poets & Writers

"Digital media is tricky because the way you interact with it is all over the place — you see a link on Facebook or Twitter, then maybe scroll through, but it's difficult to see the whole picture, which is easier to see in print." Click.


Thoughts about Ben

1. In early '03, I just needed a job. I would've gone anywhere. I ended up in Middletown, N.Y., at Mike Levine's Times Herald-Record. Ben was already there.

2. We went together to the Nieman narrative conference that first December. Everything was a story. We couldn't wait.

3. In February of '05, I concocted some reporting that took me to Lakeland. Before catching my flight back, I drove to St. Pete. Both of us wanted to work at the Times so bad. Ben picked me up at the airport in New York.

4. Late in '07, both of us trying to fight up from bureaus at the Times, there was a chance to work for Floridian — with people we had seen talk at Nieman, whose stories we had studied at the Times Herald-Record. Ben won the job. I lived in an apartment in the exurbs with an empty fridge and a mattress on the floor and books stacked against the walls. There was a knock on my door.

5. Four years later, he married me and Lauren.

6. The only reason I didn't cry yesterday when I told Neil and others I was leaving for Politico was Ben wasn't in the office.

7. I was a slow learner, but Ben taught me the most important lesson: To do this work, you need to be a person, too.


Grantland's Rembert Browne

Spotted in "Points to Ponder" in the new Reader's Digest: The history of being black in America is the history of nonviolence versus "fight back." Of wait versus now. Of a turned cheek versus self-defense.