Winter 2023

Rewriting the Narrative

A Note from the Editors

Once a story is in the world, it becomes a living, breathing thing, coming into sharp relief, receding into nebulous obscurity. But what kind of power do we have to change that story? And can we ever really know which version is true?

In our winter 2023 issue, five journalists and storytellers reckon with these questions as they devote themselves to “Rewriting the Narrative,” bringing their curiosity to bear as they shift the focus, widen the lens, and breathe new and different life into stories past, present and future.

We start in the waters off Santa Barbara, California, where a group of strangers share a dire bond. After years on the frontlines of a global pandemic, these health care workers are facing record levels of burnout. But a Colorado-based nonprofit seeks to help. In this issue’s Chasing Demons story, journalist Allison Torres Burtka personalizes a secondary epidemic as she introduces us to an ICU nurse who’s discovering that perhaps the key to healing the healers lies Beyond the Waves.

Then, deep in a land of canyons and cacti, seemingly eerie figures grace the rock walls in shades of red and black. But what do they mean? And what do we know about the people who left their mark on the desert? In our Time Travel story, writer Craig K. Collins embarks on a perilous journey to Baja California’s Great Mural Region — to learn not just the story of the murals but also the mystery of The Time of the Painters.

And when journalist and filmmaker Anna Polonyi traveled with her wife to visit the historic home of an unorthodox 19th-century French painter, she thought they were going to pay tribute to an LGBTQ+ icon. Instead, she found herself on a Quest for the truth and discovered that Proving the Love of Rosa Bonheur may not be as simple as it sounds.

Proof is also at the heart of this issue’s Portrait story. In a place of legend, the extraordinary can seem ordinary and get lost in the lore. In the Graveyard of the Atlantic, on a remote island off the coast of North Carolina, a succession of women spent more than 100 years delivering life, treating injuries, and caring for islanders facing death. In our photo feature, writer and photographer Megan Dohm wonders if there is enough detail left to recover the stories of The Lost Midwives of Ocracoke — and learns some legacies aren’t carved in stone.

Finally, in a Human and Nature story supported by the Pulitzer Center, Colin Daileda returns to our pages to tell a story that will take decades to unfold. As sea levels rise and intensifying storms batter and flood the coastal village of Chellanam, India, local activists work to protect their home today. But what future are they building? In this imaginative story, we explore The Many Futures of Chellanam, and what they mean for humanity’s relationship with the sea.

As always, we extend our deepest gratitude to our readers, who share our vision of powerful storytelling, and to our contributors, who bring us stories from the frontiers of modern exploration.

Until the next voyage,

Sivani Babu and Sabine K. Bergmann, Hidden Compass Co-founders