After a Hug: A Year with My Maple Tree Friend

by Crystal Sands

I didn’t know I was a tree hugger until I hugged a tree. It was so magnificent. I couldn’t believe the energy I could feel. I hugged my Maple tree that lives next to us, right outside our windows and close to our house. I have loved this tree since we first bought our property, but after awhile, I got to know her. She was with me in the early years in Maine when I struggled with the cold and the dark of winter. I would look to her for hope. When her buds would peek out, I would know I made it through a dark time in both the year and my psyche.

But, over time, I came to love the winter. Caring for the animals on our little homestead in winter taught me to love the ritual of nature, including the cold and the dark. Still, my Maple tree provides hope in her beauty and consistency.

Last year, I decided to photograph her once per month for a year, so I could share the beauty of her cycles of life with others. She is a remarkable tree–though I suppose they are all remarkable really. Just what do they know as they communicate with each other and the world under the earth?

I hugged her right before I took each photograph.


This was taken mid October. She seemed late with her color, but it was coming. It felt so good to hug her. There was something in the air that Fall, and my Maple tree brought me comfort.

November 2021

The snow was not early in the grand scheme of things, but it felt early this year. How quickly she went from showing off her colors in all of their glory to sleeping. We had just lost our Great Pyrenees, Gus, to Lymphoma when I took this photograph, and the stark cold matched my insides. I tried to remind myself that she would wake up–and so would I.

December 2021

In December, I can feel her deep sleep. When I went out to hug her and take this photograph, I wondered if I would still be able to feel her energy, but I could. It was different but definitely still there.


You can see a little snow on her, but I love the blue sky in this one. This photograph was taken in late January, and I could feel a change coming.

February 2022

I never know if it’s my imagination or not, but I think I can see buds bulging in February. February is generally the toughest winter month for me, and seeing the buds is always so spirit lifting. I have longed to tap Maple trees for syrup, and February would be the time. But I am afraid of messing up somehow and harming her, so we never tap her.


She wakes up slowly, but the buds are apparent now.


See? She is slow to awake, but look at those buds and look at that sky. I remember this photograph so well. Our hug felt like hope.


This one may be my favorite. Look at those red buds against that blue sky. And you can see the moon! Isn’t my Maple tree friend magnificent?


Suddenly, after such a slow process of waking up, here she is in all of her summer glory. Just as she is so full of life right now, our little farmstead is too. In June, our place was full of baby chicks, first harvest from the garden, and we had a pair of Eastern Phoebes move in. Her green, her fullness, is so representative of June on our little farmstead.


We were in a drought when this photograph was taken. I remember worrying about her some, but when I hugged her, she told me she was okay. Her roots must run so deep.


We were well into the drought in this picture, and I worried more about her. Of course, I was worried about everything at that point. I thought her leaves might look a little different than before. But maybe it was just because it was August.


September in Maine is breathtaking. My Maple tree is just starting to turn her beautiful colors, and she is lovely against the clouds and blue sky. This picture was taken the day I lost my kitty, Sophie. Sophie was old and had been sick for some time, but I needed a hug.


She seemed late to turn this year, but when she did, she put on a beautiful orange show. She is almost always some shade of orange in the fall, though I have learned over the years that colors will vary in the leaves depending upon water and weather. Shortly after this hug, we would go on a road trip to get a Great Pyrenees puppy.

The cycle of life continues on. My Maple tree friend reminds me.