By Sister Regina Siegfried, ASC

On Saturday, I retrieved last year’s palm fronds from behind “The Lady with a Light,” a picture that a friend gave me many years ago.

Then I gathered an aluminum pie pan and some matches to take to the back porch where I burned the palm branches, hoping the wind would cooperate and not blow the ashes, pie tin and matches away.

While the Soulard neighborhood, St. Louis’ own French Quarter, hosted a raucous Mardi Gras parade and party, I shivered on the back porch, thinking about spring and what to plant in the back yard.

The ashes are the centerpiece for a Lenten table arrangement, a constant seasonal reminder of the cycle of life.

When the ground thaws, when planting time beckons gardeners, when my neighbor and I get down and dirty, I’ll spread the ashes in the tomato cage as sign and symbol of the circle of life.

Last year’s palm ashes will become part of the nutrients for the tomato plants.

The ashes are only a tiny part of the composition of the soil, but they’re a promise for new life, juicy, red tomatoes, and produce to share with neighbors.

I returned to the kitchen, smelling of smoke and hope.