“The silence after a felled tree has fallen is like the silence immediately after a death. The same sense of culmination. For a moment the tree’s weight—which is all that still renders it a little dangerous—accords with the weight of the finished act.
The moment is exceedingly brief, for either fatigue—the daily fatigue of the woodcutter or the routine task of stripping the tree—quickly intervenes. Yet, just as the briefest glimpse of a full naked breast may recall the past to anyone, so the sight of the sudden stillness of a felled tree recalls death.
Even when working in the forest alone, one has an elusive sense of company. A flat field, a bare hillside, or the steppe are not the same. The trees constitute a presence. They maintain—each according to its species—an extraordinary balance between movement and stillness, between action and passivity. And in this balance, all the while being regulated, their presence is palpable. That they held up the roofs of houses for so long is not surprising. They offer company. But company of a discretion which is indistinguishable from indifference. They roofed not only houses but also courts, tax-collector’s offices, prisons, armories.
Their presence, if it offers a kind of company, is earlier than justice or the notion of indifference. The company they offer is spatial, and it is a way of measuring, of counting. Long before any numerals or mathematics, when human language was first naming the world, trees offered their measures—of distance, of height, of diameter, of space. They were taller than anything else alive, their roots went deeper than any creature; they grazed the sky and sounded the underworld. From them was born the idea of the pillar, the column. Trees offered man the measure of his upright space, and in this offer—mysteriously still present today as I fill up the chain saw with petrol—there is the discreetest assurance in the world, that we have never been utterly alone.”
— John Berger, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos