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Posted on: Thursday, 8 April 2010

Seeking the sun – stories from the road by Ruan Smit

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We so often attach the concept of life to game, forests, water and people. But seldom do we see the life that farming produces. I am not only referring to that part of life that feeds our bodies and nourishes us after exerting ourselves, I am also referring to that part of farming that can nourish the soul, and the Free State has much of that.

I see a crop of sunflowers every so many kilometers around the city of Bloemfontein and it strikes me… the beauty of these yellow flowers has much more to offer than oil and butter. That plant that shows its face only to the sun has a beauty that few recognize. The crop I stop at is big and the flowers at full bloom. At closer inspection I see that their faces are big enough for me to put my arms around. Fascinated I inspect closer, some taller than others and some with their heads more upright, but every single flower has a complicated construction of seeds that are framed by yellow leaves that borders them perfectly. I take one seed from the construction and realize that at this moment I am holding life in its purest form. I am holding the start of what will in a next season bring someone else the happiness of beauty.

Sunflowers in Bloemfontein

Captivated by the exploration of life and beauty I realize that these flowers are much like humans. We seek the sun, complicated and with borders of absolute beauty. And like these flowers we also have a circle to finish.

These thoughts take me into Bloemfontein, the city of roses and the capital of the farming province, Free State. I am supposed to meet up with long lost friends and the idea excited me. I’ll be able to measure their growth by what this city presents. Johan van Tol and his wife Ronel are a couple in love like a rose on Valentines Day has become a symbol of love.

As I see them closer I remember the last time I spent time with Johan, in Bloemfontein he showed me Navel Hill with the stars shining like many unopened gifts. We enjoy wine and mussels here and discuss the dreams of a future with the ambitions of a first year student. They are almost in greeting distance as I suddenly remember their wedding. Vows that were exchanged at the perfect venue, with word that I can still see burning in their eyes as I greet them.

Johan takes my thoughts on life further when he explains that he now measures water levels, he works with the earth that grows the beauty of South Africa. Later, around a fire, I realize that this Bloemfontein has made him appreciate the earth like only a farmer would, rainfall and sun now the metaphors he uses when discussing dreams and life. This city has also calmed him down and I can see the presence of contentment in his eyes as the fire dimly lights up his face. Ronel comes out and joins us only for a second. Playfully she puts her hands through his hair and then giggles at her creation. She also found her happiness in this city where they have both found life.

Early the next morning I wake up and explore what the city has to offer. Bloemfontein is more like an enormous town than a city. The vast and flat landscape is represented by the city’s movement. I find myself at the waterfront and the gracious movement of the people makes me stop for a moment. People are almost floating here as they slowly move from one place to the other. They take the time to look at the water and a lasting glance turns into a smile. Children are running along the walkway and only stop to peek if they have not lost their parents.

Family life is plentiful. I cannot help but stare at young couples with children or teenagers spending more time with their parents than I remember I did. I return to the home of my hosts. I see their garden now for the first time in daylight. The landscape has manifested herself here with flowers and herbs which Ronel is picking to use with dinner.

Bloemfontein has taught me more about life. Not the type of ‘life’ that I have come to know. Rather a life that in a form that feeds on many more levels than the grassy veld suggests at first. I leave the golden veld sown with patches of green and roll the sunflower seed once more in the palm of my hand. Abundant life, life in all its wonderful facets, shown by the small seed of a sunflower.

Useful Bloemfontein Links:
Bloemfontein Attractions
Things to Do in Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein Hotels
Free State Hotels

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