A Series on Building the Sustainable Home in Tucson, Arizona


I am not good at relaxing. I never have been. I always feel the urge to use my time. I’ll get ahead, I think. I’ll get a jump start so next week will be less stressful. Silly, of course. It doesn’t work that way. The work just regenerates to fill up the time I allow it. It’s always been like this—school, professional work, volunteer work, creative projects—but I’ve never really gotten the hang of a Saturday without a list.

Lately, after a bout of exhaustion, I’ve been trying really hard to change that. With my boss in full support, I’m not working this weekend at all. I can glance at what emails have arrived but I can’t answer them. That brief I’m trying to finish will still be there on Monday, and if I get there early enough and really focus, it will get done. I have no meetings lined up, no homework assigned for any of my projects.

So here I am, weekending. Which leads me to reflect on what I actually want to do with my leisure time. Frankly I was a little bit at a loss. But things got rolling. I watched that episode of Horace and Pete I’ve been wanting to see but hadn’t found the time. I reclined on the couch and made some progress reading a novel I bought long ago but hadn’t gotten around to cracking. I cooked a fancy breakfast. I went for a nice long run. I took a nap. It feels novel.

Yet I realize, looking at my house plans (which I did a lot of last weekend with Matthew) that I did know those were the things I wanted. I bought land in a neighborhood perfect for running, with wide, quiet streets and shade trees and a wash with bridges crossing it at regular intervals. I designed a living room lined with bookshelves, with the plan to have both the couch facing the TV and a reading chair. I’ve planned a kitchen that will be easy and fun to cook in. And of course, a peaceful bedroom for mornings where I don’t have to spring out of bed. (Or more accurately, I spring out of bed at 5:30 or 6 to feed the very demanding pups, and then I can get back in).

It’s a challenge to trust myself to know how to relax when I’m so accustomed to acting out of duty, perceived or actual. Designing a house that’s well built for the things that unwind me the most is a good step in the right direction. It’s set up for reading and playing records and making fancy meals. It’s not really set up for working. It will be possible, of course—I’ve written before about building a desk that accommodates the different kinds of work I do in my life—but the space is really designed for recharging.

I didn’t set out on this design project thinking that reaffirming my need and my right to relax would be part of it, but I see now that that was something I sorely needed, and something that made its way into the project without my conscious attention to it. Between Matthew and my subconscious, we knew.



Amy Knight is the fiction editor for Terrain.org. In this weekly blog series, she chronicles the process of designing and building an eco-friendly house in Tucson, Arizona. The series will explore both how it’s done and what it means, from the perspective of someone who wants to do the right thing but knows almost nothing about sustainable building. Look for new posts every Monday. You can email Amy at amy@terrain.org or leave a comment here.

Photo credit: Beach Hammock via photopin (license)

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