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Mariel Hemingway Finds Refuge at Home

Mariel Hemingway

At 51, Mariel Hemingway says she is finally learning how to play

A setting for the pursuit for play is found in her cozy 1.7 acre ranch that features an expanding outdoor gym and organic farm set deep in Malibu Canyon. Mariel shares this idyllic setting Mariel with her partner, Bobby Williams.

Bobby is delivering the workout ethos of Venice Beach to the couple’s ranch. He’s continually adding to the converted corral lined with sand, where he’s installed a pair of custom-built balance bars along with ladders, climbing ropes, a zip line, rings, kettlebells, and weights. The creative gym masquerading as playground has inspired more than one neighborhood kid to wonder out loud if they could wander in — as if the couple had created a public park as much as a private inspiration.


Every corner of the indoor/outdoor space provides clues to Mariel and Bobby’s shared passions. These elements include: a neatly stacked pile of climbing, hiking, running, and cycling shoes in a basket by their front door; a hand-painted yoga mat draped over the railing; climbing holds attached to nearly every surface (including the ceilings of the covered porch); an outdoor shower walled by bamboo; a motorcycle and a Vespa parked out front; boxes of gluten-free and agave-sweetened Blisscuits on the counter; a row of teapots gracing the stovetop; a well-appointed living room library stocked with books and DVDs; dogs and cats roaming the rooms; a selection of various statues and art from Mariel’s trips to India; and a hand-painted tepee set up in the backyard for ceremonies (doubling up as extra guest quarters).


Three years ago, Mariel moved into this two bedroom (and one office) sanctuary. Although she said she was in no hurry to buy another house, that all changed when a friend called and declared, “I have the perfect home for you.” Even though its zip code reveals it is within Los Angeles County, the ranch has the energetic feeling of being located within Mariel’s former home state of Idaho, cradled by mountains and oak trees. It’s as if she willed the delivery of a mountain hideaway–a simple retreat with easy access to Hollywood.


Overlooking the backyard pool, a series of bright red hummingbird feeders line the overhang of the home’s wraparound porch. The birds mirror both Mariel and Bobby’s boundless energy. Often described as a totem of joy or an opening of the heart, they symbolize the joyous spirit and youthful demeanor of the actress who has spent her life, as she says, walking the elusive tightrope of balance.


Balance is an ongoing theme in Mariel’s life, even gracing the title of her 2003 memoir Finding My Balance. The actress and lifestyle author made her onscreen debut in 1976, in the film, Lipstick. In 1979, she became famous for playing Woody Allen’s paramour in Manhattan. Mariel found it necessary to work toward equanimity throughout her years as a working actress, mother, author, and member of the Hemingway clan.  As she says over a cup of tea, “Finding balance is a daily process. It’s not like, ‘Oh I found it! Yay!’ That’s the journey of anything, including life itself, which always involves this constant negotiation with what the day brings, where you are, and being in the present moment.”


It’s also the subject of Bobby and Mariel’s recently released book, Running with Nature, in which they discuss, as Mariel explains, “The simple things we do, every choice we make, such as how we wake up, the thoughts we think, what we eat; any of those things can have a profound effect on your ability to stay connected, balanced, and just being authentic. I think the biggest reason that people aren’t authentic is that they’re not present.”


“I know it really well,” she continues. For much of Mariel’s life, balance was not necessarily effortless. Her famous name accompanies generations of chaos–a family legacy of addiction, depression, and suicide. Her grandfather Ernest killed himself before she was born. She describes alcoholism and anger as a presence in both of her parents. Mariel is the youngest of three sisters; her two sisters, Margaux and Joan (known as Muffet), have suffered from mental illness. Margaux died of a barbiturate overdose at the age of 42 and Joan still struggles. Before Mariel embraced a life of playfulness, her hard-won balance came from maintaining tight control: over her yoga practice, food intake, meditation, and more.


“I was always running from something. I was always scared, thinking about the past, wondering what was going to get me, and thinking about the future, wondering what was going to happen to me. I felt like I was always running from crazy. That’s why we named (our latest) film Running from Crazy.”


Running from Crazy is a documentary about the Hemingway family (told from Mariel’s point of view) that showed to great acclaim at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and has the backing of Oprah Winfrey as executive producer. While Mariel was in no hurry to make a documentary about the dark side of her famous family, when Oprah Winfrey, along with filmmaker Barbara Kopple approached, Mariel immediately signed on. “She’s an artist,” Mariel says of the documentarian Kopple.


Mariel would know, living in a family of artists. This passion for creativity is something she’s passed on to her  two daughters, both in their 20s, pursuing artistic careers. As a rightfully proud mother, Mariel shows off magazine spreads featuring each of her daughters. Dree appears in the June, 2013 issue of Vogue, in a retro fashion shoot evoking the life and era of her great-grandfather, literary legend Ernest Hemingway. Younger daughter and acclaimed visual artist Langley can be found on the pages of the May, 2013 issue of Glamour.  Their mother’s lifelong quest for balance seems to be a positive influence; they have inherited Mariel’s beauty and creativity, taking the family name and legacy to a level beyond needing to run from anything.


Both the film and the book promote wellness. (“Removing the ‘I’ from illness and replacing it with ‘we’,” Mariel says.) Bobby and Mariel are on a mission to inspire people to find their own community and to discover the means to health and wellness through daily practice. As Bobby states in Running with Nature, “Of course, the five best doctors we visit are Dr. Sun, Dr. Air, Dr. Water, Dr. Exercise, and Dr. Nutrition.” The five doctors are in residence every day on the ranch.


Fully living their commitment to sustainability, connecting to nature, and growing produce, they’ve built an expansive backyard garden. Neat rows of raised beds as well as large plots are reined in by wooden fences hand-built by Bobby to discourage wildlife grazers – this allows the couple to plant a plethora of crops including tomatoes, corn, kale, melons, berries, and greens.


After demonstrating some of their ongoing play on the ladder, balance beams, and rings of the outdoor gym, Mariel stops by the chicken coop and, using the bottom of her shirt, fills a makeshift basket with still-warm eggs from the chickens who regularly roam the property. After years of running from crazy, the time taken to sit still and meditate and be present in nature, even amidst the zip codes of Los Angeles County, has allowed Mariel Hemingway to create a soothing sanctuary at home.




Learn more about Mariel’s lifestyle tips promoting balance at: MarielHemingway.com.

Connect to nature and yourself with Mariel and Bobby’s advice at: runningwithnature.com.


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