Hearth. A medieval and pleasant-sounding word. A marvel of evocation, it conjures a flock of images and sensations, as gulls rising in unison from the ruffled surface of a lake.
It can be taken to mean a fireplace, a construction of stone or brick that represents not only a primary heat source, but also feelings of coziness and intimacy, recalling a scene of couples snuggled in deep soft cushions, close to the fire, watching sparks spring from the fracturing, fragrant wood and scallops of smoke ascend the wavering air currents, as the boreal wind bays outside the walls, announcing its pain to the heedless darkness. It often invokes a response from the subconscious, harkening back to the time when our ancestors huddled with trepidation around a mound of burning branches, offering not only warmth but protection from the ceaseless prowling of famished predators.
It can also be taken, in a more general sense, to mean home - the place in which we have chosen to live and to love, where we may feel assured of security and solace, comfort and closeness; where we can dream aloud without fear of being mocked, where we can relax and hide away from the vicissitudes of the uncaring world outside.
It has been used to describe a wellspring of creativity, a place thrumming with the energy of the human urge to produce something meaningful and eternal.
In subtle ways, the area of cyberspace that we inhabit, this world of journals, can rightfully be termed a hearth - a place to which we retreat to pour out our pain, uncertainties, fear, even contentment. We give voice to our hopes and dreams, and share the small joys and discomforts of life. And, like the mean campfires of millennia past, there are predators lurking about, but we have our defenses against them, and they represent no more than a momentary annoyance.
Rejoice, friends and acquaintances, that we have this forum, this hearth, to sit before and to watch visions take shape in front of our wondering eyes, to have a friendly venue where we can share the minutiae of our everyday lives, and where we may always feel welcome.