I believe it was Ash Wednesday, 1983.
I was living and teaching in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, and was living through a particularly challenging time.
So Ash Wednesday, that year, had a more than normal personal meaning to me.
In those days I used to ride my bike to and from my job at a local Catholic high school, about a 7 mile ride each way.
That afternoon, which was particularly hot, and which was in what we call the "dry season" in the tropics, I saw smoke rising in the direction towards which I was pedaling home.
As I came down the hill which sloped toward the beach near my home, I saw that the entire area around the place where I and a friend lived had been burnt black.
There was about a hundred yards between the paved road and my home that was a dirt road.
I slowly pedaled down the dirt road while the smoke rose from the burnt black tangan-tangan "fields" on both sides.
It was hot, smoky, and dead. As close to a reminder of Hell as I wanted to get.
Today, my former home is still pretty much surrounded by Tangan-Tangan fields. And every time I visit I remember that Ash Wednesday, when, like my life at that point, everything around me had been burned to a smoking ruin.
However, thank you Jesus, He raised me from both the ashes on my forehead and the ashes surrounding my life and home.
It was a good lesson as there would be more fields of ashes to navigate as I grew older...as we all do.
Keep the faith.