I had hoped it would be a bit warmer, but at 37 degrees and dry, I decided to go ahead and burn the aging palm branches that have been in the garage for 1-2 years.
It took abit to burn serveral branches (still have a lot of palms left). I let the metal can cool for a while, which at this temperature wasn't all that long. Then I used a wood stick with flat end and stomped them (not unlike a mortar and pestal). I brought the can in, took a small glass bowl and my small mesh sifter (the kind with a half bowl screen mesh and a handle) and put ash in and tapped it against my hand. I filled the sifter about 4-5 times (it's a really small one with finer mesh)and dumped the larger slivered pieces into the garbage. What ended up in the bowl, was a fine dark, black ash. The best I have ever made. I put them in a ziplock bag for storage.
And while the ash burned I said a prayer of blessing for all who will receive these ashes on Ash Wednesday.
They turned out so well, that I plan to burn the rest of the palm branches tomorrow when the temps should be in the 40's and dry. We will have enough ashes to last us the rest of our preaching careers. (And just as fine and great as the ones you buy.) Finally, I was able to do something well and right. I didn't muck it up in any way and they turned out beautifully.
And so, slowly, the preparation for Lent is taking shape and I am wearing the pungent odor of burned palms which have a singular smell that is staying with me and reminding me of my mortality and causing me to reflect more on what is dying and needs to die in my life, in order for rebirth and something new to take shape. Perhaps, with the burning of the palms there has been a burning of my sins as well. Out of the ashes arises new hope.