DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Wonder Amongst Death and Decay

Written by: on September 8, 2020

In “Land Art,” environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy, partners with Waldemar Januszczak to listen, observe, and “engage with the context”[1] as they walk along the Scottish borders. Their goal is to bring forth something new from that which already exists.[2]Goldsworthy enters the landscape, reflective and fully present,  he notices a “huge, heavy sense of death and decay” in that area.[3] As the dead trees and branches fall into the river’s waters, waterfalls and creative spaces form. Mangled branches provide the foundation where other branches can be stuffed and manipulated. Small curved branches are collected, and intuition fuels the movement of the artist’s hands. In the icy-cold flowing waters, Goldsworthy climbs over logs, then stands in the fullness of nature’s flow, carefully listening to how the land might whisper beauty amongst consistent change and decay. In such landscape, what exists is forced to submit to the transformative forces of rain, wind, snow, and sun. In doing so, the tension of paradox is felt as renewed existence emerges.[4] Upon the film’s completion, Goldsworthy and Januszczak fashioned a magically suspended orb of wood in the midst of cascading winter waters. From death, wonder is birthed.

Upon leaving my community of faith three years ago, I entered a barren wilderness. Death and decay surrounded me as life giving practices and beliefs I once trusted as true fell by the wayside. Still, a Divine invitation was extended, one very similar to the Goldsworthy documentary noted above. In the vast wilderness space, I was invited to be still, to stop doing, and to stop knowing. As a ministry leader from an evangelical context, not doing or not knowing created an extremely uncomfortable existence. Busyness, certainty, and identity, the gold standard of evangelical Christianity, have been broken down as environmental factors waged transformation upon and within me. Initially, I resisted and consistently fought the process. Overtime though, I grew tired and weary of the fight.

Currently, I am in a place of settled noticing. On a good day, I recognize it as a place of contentment. I’m attentive to the landscape, allowing it to reveal what wants or needs to be created, mourned, or celebrated. In this posture of presence, I am witnessing my smallness and inadequacies, in short, my humanity. Such traits are contrary to those prized by secular and sacred leaders alike, where confidence, expertise, achievement, and status determine success, both personally and organizationally.[5]

The more I abide in this space, I become increasingly more comfortable with walking by faith, rather than sight. As sight diminishes, other senses heighten. For me, listening is most noticeable, and often is experienced through deafening silence. Only through such silence am I able to truly hear the whisper of my Beloved calling me to awaken to newly forged life amongst the surroundings of death and decay. How I lead out of this experience is yet to be determined, but I pray it resembles Andy Goldsworthy’s creation forged amongst this dying landscape, a wonder to behold.




[1] Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza. Not Doing: The Art of Effortless Action. (London, UK: LID Publishing Limited, 2018) 19.

[2] Andy Goldsworthy. Land Art. 2012. Youtube: Zczfilms. January 27. Accessed September 6, 2020.

[3] Ibid., minute 3:16.

[4] Ibid., minute 5:50.

[5] Diana Renner and Steven D’Souza. Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Opportunity. (London, UK: LID Publishing Limited, 2016) 38-39.

About the Author


Darcy Hansen

10 responses to “Wonder Amongst Death and Decay”

  1. mm Dylan Branson says:

    The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and someone posted a “What Dungeons and Dragons class are you?” quiz. Being the geek that I am, I took the quiz and promptly shared it with my D&D group. My result was a Druid, a mage that delves into natural magic. At the end of the quiz, there was a follow up to find out “Which Druid Circle do you belong to?” …and of course I took that as well. I was surprised when it said I was part of the “Circle of Spores”, which I had never heard of.

    When I looked it up, this is what it said about these Druids:

    “Druids of the Circle of Spores find beauty in decay. They see within mold and other fungi the ability to transform lifeless material into abundant, albeit somewhat strange, life. These druids believe that life and death are portions of a grand cycle, with one leading to the other and then back again. Death is not the end of life, but instead a change of state that sees life shift into a new form.”

    When the Old Self dies, it can be messy. We shed the death and decay of our pride as we learn to listen to the One who makes us new again. The husk itself may not be pretty, but it also serves as reminder of the beauty of new life as we look back and reflect on where we were vs where we are now.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I’m thinking I’d be part of your druid clan in the Circle of Spores:) The funny thing about dying to self, is that it is messy and very unpleasant, yet also biblically based. Few embrace the process, though even fewer would choose to not have it happen. We know it’s good for us. But in our sanitized and professionalized death care culture, our proximity to death is so distant that it is perceived as tidy and taken care of by others. So when it happens to us, on whatever level, we don’t know what to do. It’s hard to do something that we don’t see modeled for us by those who go before us. I love that you have various models of death as transition to draw upon. Those in your circles of influence will benefit greatly in their faith walk as they watch you move honestly and vulnerabily through those seasons of transition.

  2. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    Darcy, I have an Andy Goldsworth book waiting for me at the library in hopes to inspire my 7-year-old daughter.

    You may not feel like this, but you are bearing great fruit during this season. You are like a cup of cold water in the desert and your honesty and insight continually bless me.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I’m pretty smitten with Mr. Goldsworthy right now! On so many levels, his words and practice connected with my spirit and soul. I pray your daughter is inspired by not only his works of art, but the process of how those works were created and the heart behind their creation.

      Thank you for your encouraging words. I am hoping that through these reflections I’m able to move into a new space in my head and heart, especially in regard to leadership. Please let me know if you notice a shift, just in case I miss it:)

  3. mm Greg Reich says:

    Fascinating! Great blog! I too have been in and out of deep wilderness experiences. I have come to understand that these are opportunities of deep learning and growth. I believe without the wilderness there can be no promised land. With the wilderness comes a sense of humility and freedom. A willingness as you expressed to set aside the busyness and hear the “whisper of the beloved.” I have read Deuteronomy 8 multiple times and I see the wisdom of a wilderness experience. Much like Israel I can see how God humbled me and looking back I can see His hand of guidance and provision along the way. Embrace this time. Though emotionally difficult it can be highly rewarding.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Thank you for the encouragement. The beauty of the wilderness is that I’m not out here alone. Many others are walking similar paths. God is doing a mighty work in leading his people away from the world’s trappings, if even for a time, so they can more clearly heart the heartbeat and plans of God.

  4. mm Chris Pollock says:

    Thanks for including the video, Darcy! ‘From death, wonder is birthed.’

    I love the ball of sticks that he made right in the way of the waterfall. And he says, ‘I’m quite pleased about that, actually.’

    Tenacious creativity and persistence with vision. Only a few minutes on the video, I wonder how long in actual time?

    ‘From death, wonder is birthed.’ It’s sounds like a letting go of control. The kind that ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’ push for. Have you felt peace? Perhaps that’s part of the wonder that is birthed in death, peace?

    In those sticks Andy used, they were dead twigs found around, on the ground. Of no use other than soil enrichment or, the nests of eagles. Andy gave them purpose and new meaning.

    Thankful for your posture of presence, Darcy. There’s inspiration in it, without a movement or a word. Presence. St. Francis may have nothing much to say or do about ‘doing’ or ‘saying’ and, therein would be the encouragement. Presence.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      Last month I went to Sisters, OR, for a retreat with two friends. Two days in, I had this wave of peace wash over me. I think it’s the first time in a long time I’ve felt such contentment. In part, I think it was me letting go of expectations, hopes, and dreams. But I also think it had something to do with being around likeminded individuals, who are also on their own wilderness journey. There’s strength in sitting amongst the dead things of the world with others, and dreaming of ways to bring forth new life from the decay that surrounds. New meaning and new life. I love how you picked up on that, too.

  5. mm Jer Swigart says:

    One of the most striking attributes of Goldsworthy’s art, from my view, is that all of it will eventually disappear. From death to “new life” to death again. Perpahs future Goldsworthy’s will return to these spaces and bring “new life” again or, perhaps many inspired by Goldsworthy’s vision will participate in transforming their own sacred spaces from death to “new life” knowing that, over time, it will return to death again.

  6. mm John McLarty says:

    Nature certainly has a way of revealing truth to us and unlocking answers that books and study fail to capture. It seems like there is much to learn from the “ways of the world” – in the purest sense of that phrase!

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