So that leaves me room to offer my own little take on the meaning (not the actions) of Ash Wednesday.
I like to think of it as an early gardening technique. If you burn out the brush of weeds and sprinkle the earth with the ash, the plants you want to grow will grow healthier. Not only because they don't have to compete with the weeds, but also because they are nourished by the death of those weeds (in the form of nutrient-rich ash).
I'm not using this Ash Wednesday to contemplate the "from ash you were made and to ash you will return" concept. Rather, I'm identifying the weeds in my life that are worth burning. And I'm identifying the kinds of healthy plants that I want to nurture and see come to life in the spring (Easter). It's good to experience resurrection at least once a year; and it's good to prepare for it as well.
For those of you to whom all of this is theologically boring, I offer for your meditation some words of our president:
"There is no such thing necessarily in a dictatorial regime of iron-clad absolutely solid evidence."
- President George W. Bush, Meet the Press, Feb. 2004