I wake up as usual to another sunny morning in the Free State. The old sandstone farmhouse is quiet except for the sound of the birds and the occasional dog barking. Bright rays of sunshine peak through the window blinds, casting patterns of light onto the bed. Soon we will sit around the table together for breakfast.
Only this morning is different. The day is pregnant with the knowledge that soon we will be heading to O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. I am going home.
Only now it isn’t so clear where home is. Vancouver, Canada is where I grew up; it is where my family lives, and where many of my friends are. But now I also have friends and a family in South Africa. For the last year, home was in Cape Town – a most incredible city – and the farm in the Eastern Free State, for which there are no words to describe its beauty. My fiancé’s loving family, along with the new puppy, nine other dogs, and three cats (not to mention the cows, sheep, and 42 gorgeous horses) have claimed a rather large piece of my heart.
As I write, I sit amongst half-packed suitcases, neatly folded clothing, and passports. But how am I to take everything with me? Smiling faces, wagging tails, fields of wildflowers, and the warmth of the South African sun don’t fit into suitcases.
We walked through the veld that was slowly turning from green to gold. Autumn is approaching. When we reached the dam, some of the horses had made their way into the water to pull at the long grasses from the bottom. They stood feeding in the shimmering reflection of a brilliant blue sky, while silhouettes of more horses appeared on the ridge. The dogs were hunting for rabbits and meerkats, panting and so proud of themselves. All of a sudden, the herd began to run. Those in the water splashed their way out, joining the others on the run up the hill towards the blazing African sun. The sound of their hooves on the earth was so beautiful. It was time to go.
A little piece of my heart will remain in these fields, with the horses, with the magnificent sky and with all of the amazing people and places I’ve encountered over the last year. I will leave a piece of my heart in South Africa until one day when I return, and the jigsaw puzzle of my life will again be whole.
This story ends as all do – with a new beginning. As I place my things into bags, I am aware of a new adventure on the horizon. When it’s time to let go of something or someone you really love, your heart resists. But that’s life. Sometimes you have to say goodbye. Let go.
I smile, take a deep breath, and walk towards the open door. With a full suitcase and an overflowing heart, I realize in the end, there’s nothing you can’t carry with you.