In the mid-1970’s I worked as a logger on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to earn money for photography school. A decade later while photographing loggers in northern California for a museum show, I saw the felling of a tree in ways I had not seen as a logger. There is a point when the opposing forces of energy were held in suspension. Those few seconds, between life and death, seemed simultaneously ephemeral and eternal.
At first the motion is slight and distinct. A vibration moves quickly up the tree, its top shakes and quivers, resisting the moment when gravity takes hold. The sounds are individual and clear. There is a creak, a screech, a crackle as the fibers slowly rip apart, separating the tree into stump and log.
As the falling tree gains momentum, sound and motion begin to blur. The surrounding trees, still standing, sway back and forth in the wake of the falling tree. The veiled retorts of breaking limbs ricochet like gunshot or backfire.
When the tree hits the ground, the sound is indistinguishable from the sensation. It is deep and thunderous. It pounds your eardrums and sends a shock wave up your legs. You see, hear, and feel the moment simultaneously.
Eventually the last limb falls, the ground stops shaking and the dust settles on a new and forever altered landscape.
-- David Paul Bayles, Orion Magazine