by Sara Ching-Yu Sun

Photo: Sara Sun

It was Summer of 2003. I was full of excitement and ready to leave the rowdy, noisy, busy Big Apple for 4 weeks of contrast and change. Rural living was so new to me; physically living in a natural environment for a month would be a new and unfamiliar experience. Would it influence my work? Would I get bored??

I was told that the Djerassi Program was situated in a well-preserved, beautiful and peaceful land. Artists were treated with very comfortable living except… the internet connection…. it is NOT frequent. Even though I appreciated nature, NO internet and NO TV for four weeks! How would I communicate and do searches? Would I survive the nights?? I couldn’t wrap my head around the questions as the plane took off.

Four weeks flew by quickly; I not only survived well and in better shape than when I went in but Djerassi had become one of the best times in my life.

Photo: Sara C. Sun

Djerassi is an ideal place to take walks. The acres of land on the beautiful and calming landscape relax you. With no cars and hardly any noise, it is peaceful. How light changes on the landscape at different hours of the day is fascinating to see and experience. How would I ever have these moments in NYC? Fog is the most mysterious phenomenon in Djerassi. It is a regular guest in the mornings and evenings. When the fog moved in at an inconstant speed, this thick white veil slowly but surely wrapped around you until you were eventually being swallowed by the breathless unknown. It was stunning and scary.

(Left) Mark Harman, Mark Jackson, Lava Thomas and (In the background) Ci May May Zhang

Photo: Sara C. Sun

There was one evening when writers Mark Harman, Ci May May Zhang, Mark Jackson, artist Lava Thomas and I together took a long walk up the hill. It was Mark Harman and May May who made the suggestion. They thought it would be a good way to see the fog, and I thought it was a great idea. The stroll happened 15 years ago; I cannot remember the details today. Where did we go? Which roads did we take? Where did we stop? The bits and pieces I am able to recall are solely from my photos. I remember we laughed and chatted to each other on the way. Each person enjoyed the scenery at their own pace. I had time to pause, take pictures and take pleasure in the peaceful time spent. Very relaxing. That evening the fog did not arrive to the area where we were but could be seen in the distance. The phenomenon was as mysterious and haunting as ever. Some of us walked all the way to the top of the hill as darkness descended and upon arrival, night had finally fallen. It was a happy time.

Photo: Sara C. Sun

Photo: Sara C. Sun

(Front) Ci May May Zhang and Sara C. Sun

The time spent at Djerassi was memorable. It was a special time that is hard to come by in my normal life. Besides the hours spent in art making, I tried every day even briefly to take a walk, and learned to spend quiet time alone in nature. I relaxed my body; cleared my mind; took photos; reflected. The experiences just were not the same as doing it alone in my studio or in an urban park in NYC. The conversations and happy times together with the staff and the resident artists invigorated my spirit and expanded my mind. The evening walk with some of the artists was a truly fun and a beautiful experience, and I wish we had chance to do it together again. Unlike NYC, it was at Djerassi that I really encountered the mysterious, powerful, omnipresent fog. I learned the courage to surrender my control, breathed in the uncertainty, believed and took a big stride into the unknown future.

Photo: Sara C. Sun

Sara C. Sun lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She was a 2003 Djerassi resident artist in Media Art. Her website is