A Letter of Gratitude from the Publisher

Mountaineers Books publisher Tom Helleberg shares what he's thankful for in these difficult times.
Tom Helleberg Tom Helleberg
Publisher, Mountaineers Books
November 25, 2020

As I reflect on what I am thankful for this year, I find my thoughts more stoic and minimalist than usual. This shouldn’t be surprising: it is after all a puritanical holiday and the mental exercise itself, like a hiker stripping every unnecessary ounce from a pack, forces a consideration of what’s really essential.

Health. Family. Community. Fresh air and open country.

The usual list feels less satisfying this year because we have seen what these things look like in their most minimal forms. Health has never been more tenuous. Family is too often reduced to a face on a computer screen. Community is a curbside pick-up. Maybe a smile behind a mask if you’re lucky. Even the outdoors, the last safe refuge in this pandemic, has suffered unprecedented wildfires and ongoing attacks on protected lands from Bears Ears to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

This is not to say we should not be thankful for these things in any form. We should! But this pandemic is so different from other natural disasters. We are not salvaging what remains after a hurricane or an earthquake. Instead, all these things for which we are so thankful remain in jeopardy.

It is difficult to be thankful when the impact of the pandemic lands so unevenly across the community. It is difficult to be thankful for your own individual health and safety when it comes at the expense of front-line healthcare and essential service workers.

It is difficult to be thankful lest thankfulness becomes acceptance. It is difficult to be thankful for things as they are when we know we can and will do better. If I am not as thankful as I might be, I am hopeful that we all can take better care of ourselves and each other.

This is not baseless optimism; there have been and continue to be a number of unambiguous sources of gratitude this year:

I am thankful for our readers. The past year has shown us that our readers value what we value and will seek out our books through shutdown, quarantine, and wildfire. Our readers care about real voices and expert authors intrinsically of the places they write about. Our independence matters. Our nonprofit mission matters. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably in this group. Thank you.

I am thankful for our booksellers. The bookstores of the Northwest are as important to the landscape as the mountains or the sound. All are places of discovery and connection. All are part of our identity. When we talk about the uneven effects of the pandemic, we recognize how hard it has hit brick-and-mortar shops. We all have our local; please support yours through the holidays.

I am thankful for our partners, new and old. I am thankful for partner publishers like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Adventure Cycling Association, Colorado Mountain Club, and Green Trails Maps. I am thankful for our authors, illustrators, and cartographers. It is an incredible and broad pool of talent and works, and we do far more together than we ever could alone.

If we are going to move through this pandemic into a different and better world come Spring, it will be because of our community. And it is because we have exactly this sort of community that I am thankful—and hopeful.

This year, that feels like enough.