The Heirloomist takes wild inspiration from objects and artifacts that symbolize a great life story. War medals, engagement rings, and the family silver speak volumes but sometimes an object crosses our path that's a little more "everyday" but no less fascinating.
Recently, that something was writer and author Nick Heil's lip balm collection. YES you read that correctly. Below, he shares the story of the tubes of lip balm that have journeyed with him through his many years of outdoor adventure and far flung travels. Dodging the Taliban included.
"Because I spend a lot of time outdoors, sunbaked and wind-lashed, I spend a disproportionate amount of time indoors hunting for lip balm. I’ve collected dozens of tubes over the years, a few purchased, some gifted, others “borrowed,” or just mysteriously ending up in my possession. Many have turned into tiny friends, traveling with me to distant lands. At least one of them, given to me years ago by a Mountain Hardware athlete, has been to Everest. Another, from Burt’s Bees, my favorite, went to Afghanistan, where constantly shellacking my lips was as much a necessity as a nervous habit acquired during three scary weeks dodging the Taliban.
Am I more susceptible to chapping than the average fella? I do not know—though I have heard you can develop a mild addiction to this kind of salve. What I do know is that, a few months after moving into a new house in Santa Fe, my high, dry hometown, my stash-at-hand had dwindled to zero. Like the single-sock phenomenon (I have a drawer full of those, too), lip balm has a way of disappearing in plain sight—one minute rattling around on the dash; the next, gone forever. I refused to accept this law of nature, though, and launched my Lip Balm Reclamation Project, entailing weeks rifling through jackets and pants, rooting around in my truck cab, and digging through backpacks and man-satchels.
Back they came, one by one, each happy find accompanied with a little “Yes!” or “Oh, that one!” Yeah, sure, I can always buy replacements, and do. But there’s nothing quite like one of the originals, tucked away in your pocket, there when you need."
Thank you for contributing, Nick! We are thrilled to have you as a guest writer. Nick's work can be found in Men's Journal, Outside, and Skiing among others. His book about Everest, Dark Summit, is available here.
Photo courtesy of Grayson Schaffer