A moment with actress Marsha Mason, the owner of Resting in the River, a certified organic medicinal herb farm in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
Q. Your medicinal herb farm seems like such a departure from acting and the world of Hollywood. Were you always interested in organics and farming?
A. Well, not farming so much. I didn’t know I was going to be a farmer. But I was always into organics and alternative medicine. So when I decided to grow something, it seemed to me that I should try to grow something like a medicinal herb.
Q. What initially brought you to New Mexico?
A. When I was in L.A. and the business had changed and I had gotten older and work hadn’t been coming as easily as it did before, I really had to sit down and decide what to do. Where else would I feel comfortable living? I looked at a lot of different places. I looked at an apartment in Paris. I thought I would end up back East because I love New York City. But friends of mine were looking for land in New Mexico and I went along. And then I was talking to my friend Shirley MacLaine, and she had seen some property she thought was perfect for me. I took one look at it and I said, “You’re right. I’m going to do this.” So I bought a piece of the valley and she bought the mountain behind it.
Q. Are you involved in the day-to-day running of the farm?
A. Oh, yes. I will often go down to the equipment barn and meet the men at 7 in the morning. Then I go over everything that’s going to be done that day or that week, what special projects we might have. Like this morning, we’re going to be cleaning out a pond that is used for the irrigation when the acequia [community water channel] starts to run. And we’re transplanting some cottonwood trees for shade. I’ve learned a lot about permaculture, sustainable agriculture, biodynamic preps, and soil fertility.
Q. This must have been a big learning process.
A. It’s been a huge learning experience. My library is chock-full of books I never thought I would have! The Albrecht Papers, for example. And Soil Fertility.
Q. Have you found that you’ve developed a new relationship with the earth?
A. I’ve always had a strong connection to the earth and the surrounding environment. I’ve always felt that way, ever since I was little. That there was this interconnectedness between everybody and everything. So when I look at the land, it’s just an extension of the same divine consciousness that exists in every person. When you start to think that way, or have a philosophy that’s that inclusive, the earth responds. I feel that the land truly reflects all of the physical and spiritual caretaking that we’ve done to regenerate the soil.
Q. Is there one thing you’ve learned about yourself after making this life transition?
A. The thing that’s kind of surprised me, and yet that’s been really nice, is the personal work I did on myself in the early years here. And then, being an actor and understanding human behavior and being able to read people has helped me to adjust to the cultural differences that exist in this area. The thing about this area that I really love is that you have this conglomerate, really, of different cultures: You have Mexican, you have New Mexican, Hispanic, Native American, Anglo, and they can all have their prejudices with each other, but somehow the magic of this place is that no matter how complicated those prejudices may be at times, we all find a way to exist together. And I really appreciate that.
Q. Can you share a noteworthy moment you’ve had since starting the farm?
A. Come 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the light has a particular angle to it, and things quiet down, I’ll walk through the chamomile or the calendula and the scent that comes … well, it’s one of the best meditations you could ever have, no matter how stressful your day is. And also one time whenI went to the local general store, Bode’s store, and I was walking through picking up some things, and some local folks stopped me and told me that they’d never seen the fields look that beautiful in 30 years. It made me cry.