Friends As Warm Soil (& How Hope Grows In The Dark)

Wearing suspiciously huge man-plaid shirts, two psychotherapists crouched over a patch of soil. Neither knew the other was a therapist. But, as new acquaintances, they each had a solid hunch that the other had donned the husbands' threads for the first day of their garden class. 

One held seeds tinier than dust in her hand. The other whispered, “I think Claire wanted us to plant these in a row two inches apart. (Pause.) Not fling them everywhere.” Too late.

Laughter leaped. A friendship began.

Today, eight years later, the same two woman lean in over paper, pen, and laptop brainstorming side-by-side on a strong career progression. And, in such a moment, no longer nervously spilling seeds, I realized hope starts in the dark, not the sunlight.


When we think of hope, we usually picture sunlight. When our eyes see the dreariness of gray skies and sulking snowbanks, we feel discouraged. So, we think we need a warm and sunny day to start sowing. We don't.

Buried in darkness, seeds just need the warmth of dewy soil. Most seeds germinate in starter soil at 77' to 86' F. No sunlight required. We sow indoors. We use an overhead light, a five-and-dime space heater, a plastic cover with toothpicks, a heated mat, or a warm corner. Again, no sunlight yet. The most basic gesture of warmth makes a seed’s (or a friend's) life silently burst forth from its shell. 

For a heart to heal or for courage to grow, we just need the humble nudge of another’s warmth.


You might have to be your own first friend. But, there are others out in this world looking to be one, too. Maybe start with a gardener. Yes, really. The humility of trying to grow one’s own food or floral bouquet makes most gardeners gentle suitors. And, I’m referring to those who really dig and compost and ache when they go to bed. 

No, I’m not being trite. As a couples counselor, I’m familiar with the researched traits of a long, fulfilling relationship. As a mentor of those coming through IVF or pregnancy loss, I also know about the hope that starts in the dark, without a sound. It involves:

  • having experienced loss,
  • having tried for something that you just can’t get,
  • having the surprise of an unexpected benefit,
  • having fallen on top of powerful moments hidden in everyday life.

This is what grows in the warm soil of gardens and gardeners.

As a matter of course, we soon grow roots. The days and circumstances around us grow warmer. We move outdoors into the larger world. We find sunlight. We thank the warm soil of friends, the ones who laugh with us when we accidentally spill our seeds everywhere. 

Early March for The Tipsy Tomato's garden. Where'd the ladybug live all winter?

The most basic gesture of warmth makes a seed’s (or a friend’s) life silently burst forth from its shell.