Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Old Horse

After a long weekend of house cleaning, I find myself thinking a lot of a certain Conan Doyle creation . . . that isn't Sherlock Holmes.

After having a heart attack the year prior to his death, Conan Doyle drew a cartoon he titled "The Old Horse." In the cartoon, the old horse that represents Conan Doyle is pulling an overloaded wagon piled with all his life's work. And even though they are his accomplishments, his triumphs, they still weigh heavily on the boney nag, giving the indication that they are what wore him out and brought him to this place on the road.

While I am not quite as old, nor anywhere close to as accomplished as Doyle, going through the house cleaning, I saw the actual physical manifestations of decades of collecting and just hanging on to the detritus of a Sherlockian life. Box upon box, shelf upon shelf, raw materials for projects that both succeeded and didn't, enough that if I piled it up in one horse drawn wagon it would probably kill a lone horse.

"Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our lost loves are the worst," old Trevor told a young Sherlock Holmes in "The Gloria Scott." And even though all the things we've loved over the years too much to throw them out aren't ghosts, per se, and they aren't the worst, they're still there, awaiting your time and energy to deal with them before someone else one day has to.

But the leaves are raked, the kitchen is clean, and the laundry is all folded and put away, so the little dent I made in unloading my own version of that Doylean wagon amidst life's other chores will have to suffice for this holiday weekend.

I'd like to give an ominous word of warning like, "Be forewarned, ye younger than I, don't let that ye love pile too high." But these are limits we all have to test for ourselves. Just don't give yourself a heart attack before you get a feel for what Conan Doyle's "The Old Horse" can tell us, like he did.

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