In Japanese, the kanji for autumn has two radicals: grains and fire (秋). Before living here, I did not understand how this came to be but if you happen to visit a rural landscape in September and October, you’ll have an immediate explanation: after the farmers harvest the rice and late summer vegetables, they burn the dead plants in giant bonfires in the middle of their fields. Japan is a mountainous nation and the farms lie in the nutrient-rich valleys, dissected by streams. In the countryside during autumn, if you manage to ascend to even a slight elevation, you are afforded the sight of smoke rising over shorn squares of yellow and brown, crisscrossed with rivers, usually running full from seasonal rains and passing typhoons. Autumn has become a smoky season for me.
Thus the decision to use the word fire for this week’s prompt, coming just after the autumnal equinox (for us inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere, at least). It is a heavy word, weighted with possibility. Fire played a significant role over the course of humanity’s evolution and while many no longer encounter physical flames directly, it still exists as a regular linguistic feature in metaphors, verbs, and adjectives.
Fanning the flames. A flicker of recognition. I’m on fire. Burning with desire.
So, dear writers, this week I am giving you permission to play with fire.