Feb 9-19, 2024 • Laurier Park
Edmonton's longest running winter festival!
Writer: Memi von Gaza
Once upon a long time ago when people first came to the world they were one with the heavens and the earth. They followed the rains, harvested the bounty from the land, drifted with the tides and fished in the plentiful seas. They lived in harmony with the world and one another for thousands of years until the fateful day when everything changed.
On that day a party of explorers travelling through a deep forest discovered huge stones arranged in an arc on the top of a hill. Elaborate pictograms were etched upon each monolith that told the story of a lost civilization of giants with a command of technology far beyond anything known to the people of the world.
The discovery disturbed the minds and hearts of the explorers and at first they said nothing to anyone about what they had found. Eventually, as people do, they told others and these others told others until one day they decided no more people should know. They were beginning to understand the meaning behind the pictures and beginning to understand their power. When it was time for The People to move on, those with the knowledge of the stones stayed behind. They returned to the forest, and set out to recreate the ways of the ancient giants.
Time passed. The People of the world became separated into The Giants and The Gayans. Thousands of years of harmony came to an end. The Giants built walls around The Place of the Stones and turned their backs on the world. The Gayans built walls inside their minds and turned their backs on The Giants. The hearts of the people in both camps grew cold and hard against the other.
Using the knowledge of the stones, The Giants became master builders of machines. They made machines for every purpose under heaven – machines to plant seeds and to harvest crops – machines to make their homes and their walls, and even machines to milk their cows. They created machines to make machines and machines that had no purpose at all.
The Gayans outlawed machines of any kind. They drifted with the tide, followed the rains, made beautiful things, thought beautiful thoughts but taught their children to fear and loathe The Giants and their mechanical creations.
Time passed. Things were changing in the heavens and on the earth as things are wont to do. In some places the wind blew stronger, in others not at all. Rains poured down on
deserts but stopped falling on jungles. Rivers tens of thousands of years old dried up, as others just born, ripped the soil from mountainsides and washed it into the sea.
In the land of The Giants the machines stood idle. Full grown Giants could no longer bend to touch the earth, could not stoop to smell a flower, or even put on their own socks. Children, who had not yet reached the age of ascension when they too became Giants, were forced into a life of stoop labour and servitude.
In the land of The Gayans, things weren’t much better. With walls crisscrossing the land they could not follow the rains. They could not fish the stormy seas that ripped their boats apart and tore their villages from the shores. As their hunger grew their beautiful thoughts left them. Instead of inventing ways to solve their problems they invented stories about how who was to blame.
Into this world a boy and a girl were born who were to change the world. The boy, Klaus, was born into the land of The Giants, and as soon as he was strong enough, he became a tiller of the soil. The girl, Jasmine, was born into the land of The Gayans and she had no job. She sat beside her mother and father and dutifully tried to listen to endless renditions of “How The Giants Ruined the World.”
The stories were all the same and Jasmine had grown tired of hearing them. She often slipped away from the family gatherings to climb the tall tree that grew near The Giants’ wall. From her perch, she could see the wild foam flecked sea in the distance, the camp of The Gayans all decked out in gossamer splendor beneath her, and best of all, she could see the young boy working in the field beyond the great wall.
Jasmine loved to watch him work, his dark muscles roped and strong from toiling in the hot sun. He looked like he enjoyed his work, not like the pale soft boys of her clan. She herself was strong from climbing and running away and longed to join him, but such thoughts came and went like dreams of flying. It was strictly forbidden to speak to The Giants or even approach the walls. There were tales of horrible things that happened to people who tried and Jasmine had doubts she would survive an attempt.
One evening as she went to climb her tree to watch the sunset she found the boy calmly sitting on her branch looking out towards the ocean. Without uttering a word or looking at her, he moved aside on the branch, letting her take her usual place. There was too much to say, so they said nothing at all. They gazed in silence at the sun. Only when it had melted into the sea, did they finally turn and look at one another. An eternity passed between them. When it grew dark, they climbed down from the tree knowing who they were and what they were to do.
Jasmine followed Klaus through the hole in the wall he had made some years ago to his hiding place, a tangle of vines that grew against a curve in the wall. She sat with her
back to the curve and watched him as he built a small fire. When it was lit and burning brightly, he came to sit beside her. They watched the flames in silence for a long time.
“This is all over now”, he finally said, thumping the wall with his fist. Jasmine nodded. “Yes,” she said. Klaus took out his knife, cut out a piece of the wall and threw it into the flames. Jasmine took the knife from his hands, cut off a chunk of her hair, and threw that into the fire.
All that night they planned what they would do. “We will bring bread,” Klaus said. “And we will bring salt,” said Jasmine. “And we will make a fire down by the sea and throw in all those things that have kept us apart from one another. We shall live together from this day forward,” they said with one voice.
The next day Jasmine gathered the young people of her clan and they prepared the fire at the shores of the sea and boiled its waters to make the salt. Klaus gathered the young people of his clan and they prepared the bread. At nightfall the two groups met at the hole in the wall and one by one the children of The Giants slipped through it. Klaus remained behind to address the outraged adult Giants who had followed them. “You are all welcome to come,” Klaus told them. “But how can we?” they cried. “We can not fit through that hole.” Klaus simply replied, “You would if you took off your stilts.” With that he slipped through the hole, leaving the Giants standing dumbfounded on the wrong side of their wall, just as many of The Gayans were left on the wrong side of theirs.
The rest is history. Those who made it to the fire that night ate bread and salt with one another, threw things into the fire, and never looked back. The sparks from that fire flew up into the night sky. The ashes from those sparks were carried by the wind around the world and whispered their way into the dreams of every human being on earth. Walls came tumbling down.
Klaus and Jasmine lived to a ripe old age surrounded by many children and grandchildren, their favorite game called “Giants”, involved stilts, falling down, and a lot of laughter.
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The mission of the Silver Skate Festival Society is to provide a free family-oriented winter celebration blending sport, recreation, arts and culture, showcasing various skating disciplines and promoting outdoor activities in Alberta.