Thursday, November 6, 2014


Leaf Run, Jamestown, NC
Running with Cars, Jamestown, NC

A million revelers gather every year in Pamplona, Spain in the Pyrenees foothills to celebrate the Running of the Bulls through the streets of town. It’s called The Fiestas of San Fermin, after the martyred patron saint of Navarra. The original saints feast day now runs for nine days of partying, bull running and bull fighting. Every morning at 8:00 there are six bulls released from holding corrals into the main street bordered by barricaded side streets. A small minority of adventurous folks called mozos dress in traditional white clothing with red bandanas (representing the saint and his martyrdom) and get an immediate infusion of adrenalin as they run ahead of the bulls. The unwritten law if you fall in this flight for your life is to stay down and get trampled instead of getting back up and being gored. The short course ends at the town’s bull ring as runners shout “Viva San Fermin”! Ernest Hemingway first experienced the spectacle in 1923 and wrote about the celebration of energy and life that was apparent in both the two and four legged participants.

As I was driving along a bypass today, the newly fallen leaves were once more gathering along the banked curbs after the first hard freeze of the fall season. The leaf spirits had been bound to the trees all during the spring and summer as fast moving cars and trucks freely sped under them. But now their job was completed as the trees withdrew their life giving sap back deep within their trunks in preparation for the impending winter. The leaves had received the satisfaction of a good and faithful servant that had served their symbiotic masters well. And all of the minions had worn the standard issue drab green uniforms of their rulers. Now they were released from the bondage of the tree branches and their true colors were revealed as the green chlorophyll retreated from their veins. The human creatures scurrying about below suddenly began to take notice as each tree temporarily exploded into the bright colors of fall. The free spirits were left with one last surge of energy as the autumn winds gathered them up in spontaneous bursts that sent them sailing over the landscape.

The new found freedom of the autumn leaves was beyond imagination! The early morning commuter cars were flashing by as they gathered in traditional colors of orange, yellow and scarlet. They really had no interest in soaring with eagles in the skies, but running with the cars in the streets was quite another proposition. They waited in anxious anticipation for each wind gust that propelled them into the streets and freeways ahead of the oncoming cars. As the rapidly moving cars overtook the courageous bands, they lay low as the aerodynamics of the cars’ front wind dams redirected them. When the speeding cars passed over the adventurous spirits, they rose up in the updraft, celebrating their survival. The wind currents created a vortex behind the passing cars that sent every leaf spiraling up and out of harm’s way. The excitement generated by each passing car pumped the last vestiges of chlorophyll throughout the leaves’ veins and imbued each of them with an extra shot of energy to continue the death-defying spiral dance.

When the rollicking festival in Pamplona is over at the stroke of midnight on the ninth day, the people gather to light candles and sing “Pobre de Mi, poor me, the festival has ended”. Withering leaves are caught up on the gusting winds around them and gently settle at their feet. And both the mozos and the free spirits of fall will rest assured that their legacy will not lie with those timid souls that stayed on the sidelines, but with those who ran with the bulls shouting “Viva Life!” at the end of the dance.

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