My spouse and I have been on vacation for a couple of weeks, and now our house needs cleaning. I don't know why. It was clean when we left and, nobody's been here to mess it up except for the tiny gnomes who live in the electrical outlets, and they always promise to tidy up after their raging parties.

But for some reason, everything's covered in a thick layer of dust that came out of thin air, as though Mother Earth herself picked the locks, slipped in and breathed some "nature" on everything. Any longer and it would have been like the movies where there's been some kind of apocalypse and no responsible humans are left to keep the weeds down, and the zombies can't even comb what's left of their own hair, much less steer a lawn mower in a straight line, so ivy and moss and all manner of flora start creeping over massive freeway structures and skyscrapers as our mother decides we've messed everything up and it's time to redecorate.

Despite global warning, the earth is cool, a new piece of artwork every day — a misty Monet this morning, a starry Van Gogh last night.
Despite global warning, the earth is cool, a new piece of artwork every day — a misty Monet this morning, a starry Van Gogh last night. (Contributed)

OK, my house wasn't that bad, but it was pretty danged dusty. I don't mind cleaning, but now I question whether I have been doing it right all these years, thanks to a recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey, which says women spend an average of 15.1 hours and men spend 9.6 hours per week on housework.

Getting down to Earth (Day)

What? 15.1 hours of cleaning? Per week? In one house? I dispute that. For one thing, the gender disparity is totally off. My husband does the dishes way more than I do -- sure, he has this habit of letting them "soak," but then he'll dive in and make them sparkle faster than you can say, "It's Palmolive! You're soaking in it!" He also does the laundry often. And he cooks, too. And, well, now that this is in writing, I'm beginning to think I'm quite the slacker.


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Anyway, there is no way either one of us has ever spent 15.1 hours a week in the history of weeks plus a month of Sundays cleaning this small one-bedroom place. Apparently the survey's definition of housework goes beyond mere cleaning and cooking to include "yard care; pet care; vehicle maintenance and repair; home maintenance, repair, decoration, and renovation; and household management and organizational activities (such as filling out paperwork, balancing a checkbook, or planning a party)."

Pretty much just walking in the door counts as housework. Good thing the gnomes do their share.

Third rock rocks

A clean environment, inside and out, is, indeed, a good thing. After all, it's Earth Day on April 22, and we want to be nice to our Mother so she doesn't blanket us all in crabgrass, dichondra and ornamental grasses.

First, let me just say, I'm pro-Earth. It's a good place to live. I totally dig it, and I recently did so when repotting a lipstick-red begonia. The Earth is cool, despite global warming. It's a new piece of artwork every day -- a misty Monet this morning, a starry Van Gogh last night. And it's mysterious. It could very well have a Tootsie Roll center, and the world may never know.

I knew Earth Day was coming because of the tsunami of news releases in the past week admonishing humans for things like climate change, freshwater depletion, overfishing, deforestation, air and water pollution. Fortunately, there are all sorts of things going on to mitigate these sins, such as the annual Alameda County Earth Day celebration at the Davis Street Resource Recovery Complex in San Leandro, where they're having a "sort off," with people racing to sort trash, recycling and compostables to win $125. There are news conferences about proposed legislation (AB220) encouraging people to buy electric and hybrid vehicles. Communities for a Better Environment is holding a "day of beautification" over the weekend in East Oakland, picking up trash and planting flowers and trees. And there's a "trashion" show at Sunol Glen School in Sunol.

For my part, I shall honor the day by cleaning my house. After all, my house is the environment in which I live, and I am part of humanity, and humanity is part of the Earth and, even if we were planted here by outer-space aliens, the aliens are part of the universe, and the universe is home to Earth, and Earth is home to my house, and my house is home to me, and I need to scrub the floors and air out the gnome holes. Or maybe I'll go on another vacation. Ah, circle of life.

Contact Angela Hill at ahill@bayareanewsgroup.com, or follow her on Twitter.com/giveemhill.