Based on a close reading of the work of Greg Child,
Bivouac (noun) – (1) a tunnel of discomfort that one enters in the hope of getting through to the other end; (2) a pilgrimage.
I once asked Matt, upon learning that he held a bachelor of science degree from the Colorado School of Mines, if he had studied geology or engineering; he smiled and replied, “geological engineering.” The proper use of said degree I didn’t find out until some years later when I saw him unearthing mostly buried blocks the size of microwave ovens in order to clear a flat spot for himself on our bivy ledge. When he was done he laid out in his sleeping bag and slept through the night. Nearby, on a tilted slab of rock, huddled in my sack-shaped space blanket, I wasn’t sure whether I envied him or not.
On my leads I gingerly tiptoed past the detached blocks; where I stemmed wide or slabbed it out, Matt pulled on them, trundled them, protected behind them. Through shear force of will he held the choss in place; more than that – through expectation. If I had touched those death blocks my doubt would have brought them rotating outward like three hundred pound scythes to chop my rope and send me on a long, bouncing, journey to sheol. Matt builds with stone, he remakes the world however he sees fit, he expects it to conform to his will and it generally obliges him. Those of us less tall and blond must contend with a less cooperative universe.
Matt doesn’t watch movies or read books. Deciphering someone else’s fiction is beyond him, or perhaps just outside his interest. You can’t be bothered with stories when the life you have is perfectly sufficient. He’s a simpleton. A thing outside his knowledge cannot exist. He’s the ubermensch come early, without care or concern. Doubtless, grinning, with all the confidence of a goat, sure of his footing even when the look is desperate.
My trips with Matt often have a tunnel-like aspect, “Long was the night and tunnel-dark, / so that we entered one evening and emerged the next morning / with little conception of through what land we had passed.” Canyon or crack, ridge or road, the middle hours are surreal and don’t seem to be of the same world. I wonder, now, if this effect is shared or if I am simply glimpsing his entire experience.