I have a dear friend, a person I have fondly nicknamed W-kins. I have the opportunity to visit W-kins a couple of times each year, as she lives in a large city that I pass through regularly. (She, on the other hand, rarely visits me, as I have spent the last twenty years living in small cities and towns that are not on the beaten path to anywhere.)
W-kins is very hospitable. When she finds out that I am coming through, she invites me stay at her place, feeds me well, and provides ample coffee and red wine. For years she kept a room with a futon bed in it that she called "my" bedroom, as I was pretty well the only person invited to stay with her in the city. (W-kins, however has a summer home on the ocean, where she entertains friends and family every summer weekend. She is the kind of person who always gathers wonderful people around her.) Each time we see each other, whether after months of separation or a year or more, it is like we have never been apart. The conversation picks up where it left off, about professional challenges, our kids, food, travel, world events, or transitions in our lives.
When I have the chance to connect with W-kins, I always marvel at her urban lifestyle. Years ago, when she was starting out in her career and housing was still affordable, she purchased a small two-bedroom bungalow on a good-sized lot on the edge of one of the most upscale neighbourhoods in Canada. She settled in, just blocks from her childhood home, and within easy walking distance of parks, shopping and the community centre, renovated the house, and raised her family there. The city has grown up around her little oasis, and she is firmly anchored and integrated into the community.
W-kins has surrounded herself with beautiful things. Although she is not an artist, she has an artistic sensibility, and her home is filled with paintings, flowers, fabrics, blown glass, and indigenous carvings. Her family eats (organically and sustainably) from handmade pottery, and she has collections of jewelry and scarves made by local artists. The image above is a mash-up showing some of the fabrics lying about on my last visit there. The one below plays with one of the many ocean-related pieces of art in her home.
The downside of the urban setting for W-kins is that she has to commute to work, and that takes her up to an hour each way, depending on the time of day. Her method of dealing with it, however, is mind-boggling to a workaholic like me. When her son was born, she cut her hours to halftime, and essentially, has never gone back to the office full-time. As she is self-employed she can be flexible about her hours, and also is able to do much of the writing, telephone calls, and email from home. But she does not live to work. Living comes first, and work fits in around the edges, just as much as is necessary.
She is extremely successful in her profession, proving that one does not have to work day and night to be a high achiever. Life and work in balance, living in a home surrounded by beautiful things.....I can learn from that.