Serendipity’s Sketchbook: In Search of Spices in Kandy
Candace Rose Rardon is an American writer, photographer and artist currently living in India. She sketches as she travels, and these sketches, combined with the stories behind them, charmingly capture those fleeting, layered moments that are the stepping stones of travel. Recce will be presenting her on-the-road sketches-and-stories — her sketchbook of serendipities — in the months to come.
I made one mistake upon coming to Sri Lanka: I brought my expectations. I brought images of ancient temples, sun-drenched beaches, and – what excited me the most – rolling spice plantations, where I could already see myself wandering down rows of cinnamon and coffee and cocoa trees.
Not long after arriving in the hill station of Kandy, I set out for the Peradeniya Royal Botanical Gardens, just a couple of miles outside town – spurred on by a line in my guidebook: There would be a spice garden. But what I found instead was an unkempt walled square and lone spice plants scattered haphazardly throughout, a clove tree here, a towering nutmeg tree there.
It fell far short of the picture of those rolling plantations I had in my mind.
Briefly set back, I turned to the map of Peradeniya in my hand. There was an orchid house, national herbarium, and several palm avenues – but I felt drawn to visit a certain bamboo garden. It was home to the Giant Bamboo of Burma, the largest known variety of the plant that can reach 90-130 feet in height and ten feet in diameter. Young shoots, I read, grow at the rate of one foot a day.
There, beneath a grove of bamboo, their leafy tips bowed like heads in prayer, I opened my sketchbook.
One of the garden’s supervisors, a small man named V.J., wearing an olive green uniform, soon paused behind me. He asked to see the rest of my drawings and I walked him through a year’s worth of sketches, from countries like Portugal, Croatia, India, and now Sri Lanka.
“In all those places you go and artist?” he asked, and I smiled at his use of “artist” as a verb. We chatted a bit more as I finished my sketch, V.J. pointing out his modest, green-shuttered home below the bamboo. The last thing I added was a title: Bamboo Garden – Peradeniya – Kandy, Sri Lanka.
It wasn’t the spice garden I’d expected to find here, but I was unexpectedly okay with that.