Home for the soul

A farm in Ixopo in South Africa

There is a farm in South Africa’s Southern KwaZulu-Natal Midlands that has completely captivated my heart. I go there, near Ixopo, to escape the world; when I need the early-morning mist to give me clarity, and the solace of open spaces to bring peace.

Out here, I find beauty and inspiration everywhere: in the organic patterns on the hides of rugged Nguni cattle, and in the lines of old farm fences that keep them from the road. In the tiny crystals of new-day dew and the gentle halo of furry grasses lit against a lowering sun. At the end of summer I find beauty in the soft carpets of fallen jacaranda flowers, and through winter in the flames of aloes, so often visited by sunbirds.

In the early morning I listen to Zulu women begin their workday with the most lovely of hymns, and then mark time by the distant trails of cow bells until mid-afternoon, when fish eagles call across the dam below and early evening when the crowned cranes honk as they return to the fields to roost. It is around then that cattle raise tendrils of dust against the cooling sun and, as the temperature drops, the air begins to mingle with smoke and soil.

This is my favourite time of day, when I walk with my sister and little niece through the fields, with two Ridgebacks and a Jack Russell running ahead as if they’ve never before been set free; when really they run with such joy every day of their lives.

I discovered this place, just two hours from Durban, years ago when on assignment for a travel magazine, long before my sister fell in love and joined the family whose roots here grow deep. While I now stay with her, I am still drawn to the place that first captivated my heart: King’s Grant. It’s an historic guesthouse just down the road from their home, and I’ve always remembered this beautiful red-brick sanctuary for a message inscribed on a rock somewhere in the indigenous garden: “It is here, with the spirit of the wind, that I will find my soul”.

This piece was written for Discovery magazine.

Ixopo walking

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