The Sabbath tree

One Sunday, when I was small, I took the bag of havdalah spices and buried it in the back yard. The sun shone down on the spot, and I watered it daily. A tiny stem sprouted, with silken-green leaves, and every day it grew more. By Friday morning it was a sapling taller than I was, with tight buds at the end of its branches. Through the day I checked on it, watching the buds slowly open.

As the sun set, the smell of spices seemed to fill the air. Just as darkness crept into the yard, the flowers opened wide. They had white, glowing petals that curved like shaved cinnamon, with tiny star-anise-shaped patterns within. I sat under the tree all evening and much of the next day, breathing in cardamom and turmeric until the sky darkened again and the petals snowed slowly down.

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