In the Valleys

Green are the valleys
That spread out before me
Filling my eyes with the glory
From above

They speak the truth
Of the peace and anguish
That have comingled there
Since the beginning of time

Their verdant sides
And fruitful floors
Fill my eyes
With wonder

And cause me to pause in thought
Wondering why is there such a mixture
Of the good and the bad,
And why doesn’t one just crush the other?

But they don’t.
They co-exist as if in some diabolical mixture from hell
That caresses the beautiful locks of heaven
And gives wait ’til it lays its head down for sleep.

And…the side from heaven that shows itself in the valleys
Likewise wait for hell’s caresses to end
So it can cut off the fingers
And end their meddling.

All that – I see
When I look upon the beauty
Of the valleys
Below.

All that –
Waits to be recognized in the eyes
And catapulted into the minds
Of the viewers and occupants there below.

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Excerpted from one of Reep’s upcoming books. 
For ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep

Sanctuary of the Woods

Way down in the woods, we’d play every afternoon til it started getting dark. Then, we’d work our way back up through the trees and out into the clearing that formed the top part of the hill behind the hay barn and the metal calf barn that was painted white. Out on top of the hill, the evening light shone all around and lit up everything like it was a dying fire. Reds and oranges and yellows all leapt and jumped around with the changing of the shadows, as the sun set farther and farther into the horizon in the west.

But before all of that, we were in the woods. That’s where the most glorious music was played, the most pungent and wonderful smells were produced, and where the most intricate of interlacing details could be seen wherever we walked or stood. Ants crawled all over the ground and exposed themselves here and there in the form of a red clay hill to signify they had made a huge undertaking underground. “Hill” was a relative term compared to the towering pine trees and oak trees in the immediate vicinity. However, to the ants, their hills were gigantic.

The creek constantly gave off its melody that wound up being the background tune for the rest of the woods. As the stream of water walked across the rocks and sand underneath, it splashed and dashed, adding to its travels an occasional brushing up next to the tall grass that grew along the creek bank. Dragonflies, water bugs, and butterflies flitted around in search of their own particles to eat and enjoy. Their color added flavor to the eyes along the stream of water, as it meandered its way from the bottom land of the pasture and into the area we claimed as our sanctuary – the woods.

God had given us those woods in order to show us that he was still very much in charge, although our home life was hectic at times. Growing up can be challenging for anyone at times, and we were no exception.

The peace and solitude of the tree-covered area was our home for a few hours each day, enough that it gave us respite from the craziness. When we entered the woods and the tall grass surrounding the creek, we knew we were safe. Sure there were lots of critters around, but we knew none of them would hurt us.

How did we know? Birds singing was one of the signs. If the birds were singing, then nothing was around that they were bothered by – and they were always singing, so we were always safe.

Of all the birds in the woods, one of the most amazing ones was the mockingbird. It had the ability to be a one-man-band. It could hear a new bird and after a little practice, it could take the other bird’s voice as its own. At the time, we didn’t understand all of the details – we just knew it sounded beautiful.

The wind joined in on the symphony that God had going on in the woods. As it blew across the tall, green grass and through the dark pine needles in the treetops surrounding us, we could feel the presence of something incredible passing through our midst. It was almost as if the stars and clouds had come down and were invisibly brushing us on our cheeks.

Today, I still love the breeze.

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This article was adapted from one of Reep’s upcoming books.  For ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep

Mind Over Matter

When responsibilities, deadlines, and things around you are tough, life can appear difficult. It is at those times that you may start wishing you were elsewhere: on a beach, in the mountains, at the park, or in another life.

Does that mean in those situations you are letting the surrounding conditions control your emotions and reactions? Yes, probably so. Is that the best way to react? No, probably not. So what to do?

To not let them control you, make a conscious decision to be indifferent to them. Surrounding conditions are a lot of times only innate objects or imposed beliefs. And if they are innate objects, they may not even be real. They may simply be conditions that you perceive as real and attach emotions and reactions.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is employ the idea of mind over matter. That is part of the perspective where genius comes from. Mind over matter is part of what gives you super-abilities in times of need.

The more you dwell there and see your surrounding conditions from its vantage point, the more you will have it as your confidant. You will be able to harness and actively use its power to overcome in life, moment-by-moment.

Likewise, all thoughts, actions, and reactions are seeds that get released into the physical and metaphysical planes of the universe. There, they get planted and grow into fruition. So, nothing is just in and of itself. There are always more things connected to the action or thought than are evident.

The mental approach you take to overcome a particular situation can actually lay the groundwork for success and progress in future areas of your life. By taking the time to positively plan your approach to utilizing your ideas and brilliance to succeed, you are investing in your own future.

Over the years, life will take some interesting turns. Many aspects will mesh into an interesting tapestry that continuously grows. Keep yourself at the point where you look forward to how each new day will unfold. Visualizations will come true, and then more will take their place in the future. It’s always interesting to see how visualization will materialize and when.

You don’t have to figure out your whole life all at once. Enjoy life as it is, moment by moment. When you do, you’ll be amazed at how simple it is and how much more at ease living becomes.

“Mind over matter” works.

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adapted from my book An Agreement with Life

Hedgeboars (flash fiction)

Merkador’s army stood in battle formation, ready to charge. A few of the soldiers lined up in front felt the armor on their legs jiggle. They glanced down and noticed ripples forming repeatedly in the puddles of day-old rainwater next to their feet. Confused, they looked at each other, wondering what was happening. They tried to brush away the feeling of concern that was growing in each of them, but they couldn’t – in light of what happened next.

Soldiers who were the closest to the forest were the first to hear limbs snapping and to see leaves dispersed like fireworks.

“Hedgeboars!!” yelled one of the soldiers.

The first wave of wild beasts broke loose from the forest and into the open plain. Fear gripped the soldiers’ hearts, and terror filled their eyes. A few stood fast, though, and tried to calm the others around them.

“Steady, men! …Steady! Hold your positions!” came from those men who had strong hearts and loud voices. The words seemed to equalize against the timbers that broke in front of their eyes.

“Ready your weapons!” came from elsewhere in the ranks.

Men up and down the line shifted their bodies and weapons into an attack-and-kill position. The entire army seemed to flex and pivot in cadence under the verbal orders, in light of the impending assault.

Hedgeboars could cause overt devastation within the blink of an eye. They were mean, extremely hungry, and horribly ugly. They weren’t the fastest animals in the forest, but they weren’t terribly slow, either. They seemed to operate on the method of mass momentum. Once they got started, it was hard to slow their moving force. And that’s exactly what their “owners” were counting on: spook them in the woods, drive them out into the open, and watch them run right over everything (and everyone) in their way. Blind fear and seemingly directionless energy pushed them forward to the hedges that lie in the distance.

Hedgeboars, by themselves, were stupid – hence, their force was directionless and awkward. But by putting them together in one big group, their massive force was one to be reckoned with and feared. Even a dumb animal was one to be afraid of, if it was heading right at you – ready to trample – and these were.

Merkador’s chief architect of war was aware the enemy had considered enlisting the hedgeboars’ help through conscription, but he didn’t believe they were actually capable of directing the beasts in a useful fashion. Apparently, he was very wrong. In fact, the exploding treetops were proof that the army from the badlands had indeed figured out a way to herd the hedgeboars together and direct their force as one.

By now, the edge of the forest looked as if giant drops of green rain were falling to the ground. Large chunks of brown limbs and bark also flew through the air for a few seconds, then finally found a resting place on the ground, in other trees, or on top of some of the soldiers. That, coupled with the sound of snapping limbs, caused the right amount of fear in the onlookers to discourage them from wanting to hold their position and line. It was a strategy so well-played by the other side that the Chief Architect wished he had thought of, first.

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This story was adapted from one of Reep’s upcoming books.  For ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep

 

Lightning Storms in the Field

Every other weekend during the school year, it was our turn to milk. My brother and I would help Daddy milk Saturday evening, Sunday morning, and Sunday evening. We also fed the cows Saturday and Sunday, midday. Sometimes when people were out sick or on vacation, we helped during the week – but mostly every other weekend.

During the summer, though, it was a different story. Any morning or evening was fair game, depending on what was going on. If hay needed to be baled, then somebody milked while somebody else baled. If it was a silage-cutting time, one guy cut silage, one drove wagons back and forth to the field, and another packed the silo with a front end loader. Two others milked.

Of course, the wild card in all of that was the weather. If it was sunny and warm out, life was good. But if it was stormy or overly hot, that was a different story. Likewise, rainstorms were something amazing to watch. It was always interesting to see just how close the clouds would get before they unleashed their water from above.

Sure, most people look at rain clouds and think, “Oh look…how pretty.” But if you’ve ever been caught out in a storm, then you probably don’t automatically think that anymore. I can’t tell you how many storms I’ve gotten caught out in. A lot of times, they would come up so suddenly that I didn’t notice they were blocking the sunshine until they were already upon me. By then, it was too late. The big fear always seemed to be about getting struck by lightning.

We could be out in the field on any given day, and Daddy would come check on us periodically. He was usually easy-going and laid back – driving slow and rarely a worried look on his face. But baby, let the sky crack loose a couple of wicked, shimmering bolts of electricity and everything changed!

That blue pickup would come flying across the fields to snatch us off the tractor quicker than a rabbit running away from a combine in second gear. Depending on which field we were in, we’d wind up going to Mamaw’s house or to our house for the duration of the heavenly electric show.

I actually liked it when that happened, because going to Mamaw’s house meant getting to eat some of her pound cake and drinking cool well water from the kitchen sink. On the other hand, going home to wait out the weather meant peanut butter and crackers and sweet tea. So, either was a win.

Either way, though, it meant that the tractor seat was going to be wet when I got back to the field. Some things just couldn’t be avoided. Sure, in a perfect world, I would have known the storm was coming and was going to have lightning in it that time – meaning we would be leaving the field for a while. But also in a perfect world, the silage would have cut itself, and we wouldn’t have had to be out there in the first place. But, that’s not how it happened. We had to cut the silage to feed to the cows – just like we had to drive the tractors that got the job done.

I’m grateful that I had the chance to get wet, driving the John Deere in the rain. In a lot of ways, it made us better kids then and better adults now. None of us take dry clothes and hospitality for granted. We’re grateful for them all the time.

Once in a while, I’m guilty of complaining about something as simple as getting my sock feet wet in the kitchen if there’s something wet on the floor. But then I’ll stop, shake my head, remember the storms in the field, and smile because I’m not soaked from head to toe. It really is amazing how things in life shape who we are and how we react to them.

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This article was adapted from one of Reep’s upcoming books. To read ones currently published, go to Amazon.com/author/reep

Morning Dew (poetry)

A field laced with morning dew
Greeted my walk today
I wanted to linger – make it hold
But I could not stay

As I stood there, leaning in
I tried my best to hear
Hoping it would have the words
To always keep me near

It seemed to say in other ways
The callings of my heart
Yet I knew with grown up mind
The truths were miles apart

It said it would go its way
It would have to pass
And though it’s gone from daily frame
In my mind, it lasts.

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My books are available here:
www.amazon.com/author/reep

White Fire (poetry)

White fire lit up the ground
And burned in my mind’s eye.
I could see the burning land
But knew it was not I

Who had a way to put it out
Or even make it start
I was simply standing there
While it let me take part.

It coursed across the ground with speed
Flames were dancing near
Yet none ‘the grass expressed concern
That it would disappear

All the while, I reveled in
The burning of the land
Yet coursed itself below the fire
Allowing none to stand.

As the sun in East did rise
White fire left my sight
And in that moment then I knew
It was the morning light.

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My books are available here:
www.amazon.com/author/reep

Collecting Eggs with a Shotgun

“Boom!” went Ol’ Betsy, as I pulled both triggers of the double-barrel 12 gauge shotgun. The rats I was aiming at disappeared into thin air.

“Holy crap! Did you see that?” I asked my sister. “What?!” she yelled back at me. Both of us were a little deaf from the sound of the gun. “Where’d they go?” she asked. “I don’t know, but I don’t think they got away.”

Two rats had been in the corner trying to add to our consternation by increasing their population. We had entered the chicken house at that moment just to gather the eggs, but, well…timing is everything, I guess.

Meanwhile, all the chickens had fled to the other side of the building. They stared at us for a moment and then went back to pecking, cooing, and cackling. The amount of manure had increased slightly in that area for some reason, though.

We stood there for a few moments looking at the gaping hole in the back corner near the floorboards. Finally, I said, “I guess I should go find a piece of wood to nail over that.” “Yeah, probably,” was my sister’s reply. The corner where I had aimed and fired now had a jagged, new opening instead of a rough, closed look to it. We laughed, and then I added, “At least it worked.”

For weeks before that, the rat problem had been getting worse. The last straw came after I had shaken down the feeder and two rats jumped out instead of beautiful, golden chicken feed. That was when I had had enough.

It was one thing for the rats to live under the chicken house and mind their own business. That was fine. But when they started eating up the food that was for our livestock and taking baths in the buckets of water… oh, no… and then to scare us every day on top of that… yep, that was the last straw.

Yes, we had set poison for the rats, but instead of it killing them off, they just seemed to eat it like candy and stand around waiting for us to bring them another bag full.

When I realized that neither the poison nor the traps were working, I did what any 14-year old kid would do out in the country on a farm – I got creative. I started taking different kinds of sticks with me to the chicken house, but they proved to be either too short to reach or too long to swing.

So, I moved on to a bullwhip. That worked sort of okay, but it mostly just made the rats mad instead of taking them out of the picture. Next, my souped-up slingshot worked pretty good, as long as got ‘em square in the head, otherwise the rocks deflected and wound up hitting the chickens instead.

What to do…What to do? After thinking about my options for a while, it finally hit me. I went to the closet and pulled out a shotgun. It was a .410 single bolt action. My aim was good, but the pellets just seemed to bounce off the rats’ hide as they ran and ducked into their holes. And I wasn’t fast enough to unload the empty shell, reload, and get off another shot before they had scattered and run for cover.

That week, I happened to be down at my aunt’s house visiting and told her what was going on. A twinkle appeared in her eyes and an innocent, yet devious, grin spread across her face.

She said, “You could always borrow the 12-gauge if you like. Of course, it’s a bit more powerful than the .410, but if you use it right, it should do the trick.” “Can I?” “Sure. Just be careful.”

She handed it to me, along with a few shells. The smell of oil, use, old leather, and previous hunting trips poured off of the gleaming cylinders of steel and filled my nose. As I carried it home that evening, I decided that “Ol’ Betsy” seemed like a fitting name.

My approach to finding a solution to the rat problem seemed a bit eccentric – according to some other people I told at the time – but they weren’t the ones getting their feet overrun by hungry rats. And, it worked.

We weren’t afraid to go collect eggs anymore, after that. Every afternoon we exited the chicken house victorious with a shotgun in one hand and a basketful of eggs in the other.

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This story was adapted from one of my upcoming books.  To read ones currently published, go to www.Amazon.com/author/reep .