Hello, and welcome to Mainewhile.

“What,” you are undoubtedly asking yourself, “is ‘Mainewhile’?”

Mainewhile is an every-other-week exploration of life in these parts through a series of everyday moments. Politics, social happenings, arts and culture – or just a truly transcendent cup of coffee; all of this and more will be up for consideration and conversation.

I moved to Maine in 1989, just ahead of my 18th birthday. I spent my first week in a kayak, attempting to circumnavigate Mount Desert Island – during Hurricane Gabrielle. I’d never been in a kayak before, I didn’t want to be in one then, and as the tiny, little kayak crested yet another 14-foot swell in what seemed to be a never-ending sea of 14-foot swells, I fell in love with Maine, hard. I’ve been here ever since.

Up in Hancock County, I taught photography, worked with families facing challenges, and raised support for community radio. I ran the local Democratic headquarters, managed several campaigns, and lobbied for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine – all while maintaining good working relationships with the Republicans in the Legislature.

I’ve served on several social-justice organizations, written articles for Maine Women Magazine and had the great joy of being the executive director at the 1932 Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor. Right now, I’m wrapping up my Master’s Degree in Museum Studies, focusing on community-based educational programming.

Mine has been a life of “many hats, ” but they all center on the one driving question: How do we create a healthy, vibrant and creative community?

Woven into my work have been my two sons (who have grown into wonderful teenagers), my extended family, my friends, my many great dogs, and my ever-supportive sweetie. I make art when I can; I make dinner more often. This summer, I left Bar Harbor to study at the Denver Art Museum; when I returned, it was to a new home, in Brunswick.

So here I am, exploring southern Maine, exploring this life, and trying to ask some big questions, with you, here in this column.

I want to be clear up front, however: I’m serious when I say it’s an exploration. I have a lot of questions and not many answers. I am liable to wander down some paths that might dead end, and I will certainly change my mind on a few things. I’m not likely to offer a scathing shred of anything, be it an art show or policy measure – not that they’re not fun to write (they are), but because I’m not sure that they actually advance the conversation. Or, rather, I’m pretty sure they don’t.

Mind you, I’m no Pollyanna either. When I feel that there are things awry, I will certainly say so. But I hope to do that in a way that actually advances the conversation and thinking. Even when we don’t agree, we ought to be able to at least hear each other, respect each other, and entertain the idea of a foreign idea having merit. Life gets messy; sometimes, more than one thing can be true.

I hope you’ll join me. I would love to hear your ideas for how we can coexist and create a vibrant space. I am looking forward to the experiment of putting reaction aside and entertaining new or challenging ideas, even if just for a moment. I want to know what you are thinking about, where you are going, what brings you joy, and what inspires you.

I am looking forward to the conversation.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]