Today we are featuring stories about the decimation of a national park, the survival of Texas Monthly magazine, how a couple escaped slavery in Boston, choosing when to die, and the future of jelly.

1. In a Famed Kenyan Game Park, the Animals Are Giving Up

Georgina Gustin | Undark | January 4, 2023 | 2,363 words

Once a wildlife paradise, Kenya’s Amboseli National Park has become a wasteland. Tourists on safari arrive excited but leave traumatized, reports Georgina Gustin, as carcasses of starved animals litter the terrain: “Wildebeests are gray-brown lumps with quote-shaped horns. Gazelles, small piles of suede. Zebras, bloated disco-era carpets.” Previously a lush wildlife sanctuary, Amboseli has been plagued by climate change-fueled drought for two years and braces itself for a third. In addition to a parched and changing landscape, clashes between herders and farmers and an increase in illegal poaching also contribute to the dire situation. Wildlife photographs by Larry C. Price accompany Gustin’s piece, and while they may be hard to look at, they’re an important reminder that no creature can escape a warming planet. —CLR

2. How to Keep a Great Magazine Going

Stephen Harrigan | Texas Monthly | January 17, 2023 | 4,495 words

Fifty years used to be nothing for a magazine. Of course they lasted decades, they were bound collections of journalism printed monthly and delivered via newsstand and mailbox! But for Texas Monthly to hit that mark was in no way foretold — and for it to do so during the long slow decline of physical media is a miracle indeed. No wonder that the magazine commissioned some of its longtime writers to bear witness. What sets Stephen Harrigan’s dispatch apart, though, is its utter lack of nostalgia. Sure, Harrigan was there at the very beginning; sure, he wrote for TM as typewriters gave way to computers and fax machines gave way to computers and [checks notes] everything gave way to computers. This is no elegy to a bygone era, though; it’s an ode to evolution. Turns out that a publication needs to adapt to survive. But that doesn’t mean that its mission has to. “Morale was shaky, salaries were flat, the staff was shrinking,” Harrigan writes of a particularly lean period last decade. “It just didn’t seem like a world anymore where a writer would have the latitude to take three or four or six months to deeply report a feature story, where it was possible for a statewide magazine to maintain a national reputation. But at the same time, nobody wanted to give up on the idea.” Nobody wanted to give up on the idea. Nobody should. And in a time when launching new magazines is far too rare (and their demises far too frequent), it’s crucial to remember that. —PR

3. In 1848, an Enslaved Couple Fled to Boston in One of History’s Most Daring Escapes

Ilyon Woo | The Boston Globe Magazine | January 5, 2023 | 5,786 words

Ellen and William Craft fled slavery not via the Underground Railroad but by actual train: They climbed aboard one bound for Savannah, Georgia, in December 1848 — she disguised as a white man, he as her property. They saw people they knew on their journey, including a friend of their master who sat right next to Ellen in a first-class seat. (She pretended to be deaf so she wouldn’t have to converse with him and risk exposing her identity.) But making it to Boston, where the couple built a new life together, didn’t guarantee their safety. Slave catchers came for them, and in an enthralling turn of events, Bostonians of all colors came out to defend the Crafts by any means necessary. This story, excerpted from Ilyon Woo’s new book, Master Slave Husband Wife, had me on the edge of my seat and, at various points, cheering. It feels as if it’s powered by a locomotive engine, but really the motor is Woo’s exceptional facility with pacing, scenes, and characterization. —SD

4. The Switzerland Schedule

Robin Williamson | The Audacity January 11, 2022 | 4,597 words

Robin Williamson’s mother had secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. A disease that ravaged her body for many years — before driving her to an attempt on her own life. Her family needed to find a different path. Williamson talks about her mother with love, tenderness, and sadness that never creeps into the saccharine. Instead, pragmatism overlays emotion: Faced with death, this family made a plan, wrote a schedule, and decided to confront it together, not in secret. Despite her mother being “the strong, stoic sick person,” Williamson knew that — beneath this persona — there was misery and pain, with morphine now “like laying a thin blanket on a stone bed.” Not shying away from the reality of disease, Williamson still manages to write an essay more beautiful than maudlin. The final month the family spends together before heading to Dignitas to carry out “The Switzerland Schedule” is about the tiny, precious moments of nothing: “Picture my father, my brothers, and I spread across the sofas, beer bottles and wine glasses strewn around the room, with my mother on her scooter beside one of the sofas.” The time then spent in Switzerland is about grief, but it is also about finding peace. —CW

5. Jelly Is Ready for Its Redemption Arc

Bettina Makalintal | Eater | January 10, 2023 | 1,818 words

“I predict that we are on the threshold of a new aspic-forward aesthetic,” is something I would not have expected to read in my lifetime. I admit it. I’m a dessert fusspot. I have strong opinions: I love sticky toffee pudding and chocolate cake. The only acceptable pies are apple and pumpkin. Custard is bland. Tapioca is revolting. But Jell-O tops the many desserts on my “hard no” list. Way too squirmy! It’s always important to revisit your beliefs from time to time. (I guess.) Could Jell-O become a possibility for me? (Highly unlikely!) “I think that Jell-O, in a way, can be terrifying and delicious at the same time. There’s a little discussion in the book about the sublime: things that are really scary, but they kind of attract you anyway. It’s things that are in the liminal space between what’s acceptable and what’s really bizarre, and people find that fun from an aesthetic perspective.” —KS