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EcoCarols : A Creative Approach to Reinvention

Originally appears in the Winter 2015 issue

Teacher. Is the Northern Lights God having a dance in the sky?’

‘Teacher. The bible says the world was made in seven days. Evolution says it took billions of years. Which is right?’

THESE ARE TWO profound questions from a six and seven year-old respectively. Children are perceptive, holistic and direct. Many possess the innate spirituality expressed through their experience of nature demonstrated in the opening quote. As a 25-year-old headteacher of a school in the Orkney islands off the coast of Scotland in 1971, I answered these questions in ways culturally acceptable at the time but hardly satisfactory.

The supremacy of scientific language in western culture means we do not look to nature automatically and habitually as our prime teacher. Or defer to its fractal patterning as the deep informer of life processes. To take models from nature concerning how life works is not taught today, though it once formed the bedrock of understanding in all indigenous cultures. We recognize our species homo sapiens as part of the ecosystem and therefore subject to Nature’s Lore but the full interconnection remains off-limits. The new science of biomimicry is a step towards using ‘nature as teacher’ in a modern context. Indigenous people have always been well-versed in the art of reading an environment both physically and spiritually. We have reached the point, educationally, where the natural has to be taught; the virtual being home-base to the 21st century mind.

From this background I devised the term ‘Complementary Spirituality.’ Complementary Spirituality looks at the big picture first, and sees the religions of the world as expressions of any one culture’s spirituality. In the case of EcoCarols, what is being joined up and interconnected is the celebratory within the Christmas carol and a celebration of nature and the Earth.

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Ann Palmer is a former headteacher who has taught Creative Writing across the age-range. She was awarded a distinction in a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching Creative Writing for her Warwick university-accredited courses in the U.K. Currently she is promoting a grassroots-led anti-litter campaign in the Western Isles of Scotland. You can learn more about her work at