The Fern on A Mountain

February 21, 2010
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Somewhere close to where you live, there is a mountain. The fern is on that mountain. You may think there are no

mountains where you live, but I assure you there is a mountain so close by you wouldn't even know to look for

it. I live in the Midwest; even though it's all flat, rolling plains as far as the eye can see, there is still a

mountain. I know that if I climb that mountain, I will find the fern.

This fern is special. It looks like a fern that one might have in one's house. It's green and moderately leafy.

It wilts during the winter and comes back by summer time. In fact, there's no way to distinguish it from a

regular old fern. It's not at the top of the mountain; it would be too easy to find it if it were there. It does

not talk, nor are there markings or signs to show you which one it is.

Why is this particular fern so special? Because it will make every wish you desire come true.

If you're close enough to it.

Ki heard of this fern. The drunkard spoke of it all the time. It was whispered through the streets at night as a

bedtime story to hungry children. Ki heard of this story, too, but never gave it much thought until a friend

came back from travels to a far-off land.

"I've seen the fern. It's given me everything I ever wanted and more."

"You must be joking," Ki said. "It's just a silly story that gives false hope to those stupid enough to believe


"No, it's very true."

Outrageous, Ki thought. But the friend never lied. The wise man didn't lie, either. "The fern does, indeed,

exist. I've been to it once. It should take you three days to find if you're smart, and a lifetime if you never


"But where's the mountain?"

"You know where it is."

"Actually, I don't."

"Think of a mountain very close to where you live. Go there."

Unfortunately, there was a mountain very close to where Ki lived. Three-days-worth of provisions were packed and

the hike began. There was rain.

First day. Ki could not find a fern. He wondered how his friend could find the fern on some other mountain, yet

the fern is also on this mountain. The wise man does not lie, so Ki continues his search.
Second day. Cold, soggy clothes. Ki didn't care. The things that could be done if the fern was found! All the

things I could wish for! But how many wishes can a fern hold? As many as its leaves? But that hardly seems fair.

Perhaps it's three wishes, like a genie. But that sounds like a fairy tale. At least one wish, perhaps only one


What shall I wish for, thought Ki as the boots squished through the mud o' th' mountain. A misplaced step, not

paying attention to the surrounding world. Slip. Fall. Plop. Face-first into the mud o' th' mountain. As Ki rose

from the mud, a fern came into view. This must be it, Ki thought, and with all the strength of will, Ki said "I

wish my steps to be sure." A sensation. Something... Ki stood upright and took one more step. Slip. Plop. Right

into the mud o' th' mountain. This is the wrong fern. The journey is not over yet.

Third Day. Provisions getting low, should I be getting back home? It'll be warm there. I can have soup.

Something warm... Another fern. "I wish to be warm." Some warmth. No, just my imagination. Perhaps the fern does

not work for my wishes, it only works for other people's wishes.

It took Ki two days to get back home. Hunger. Cold. Lethargy. Back at night. One night's sleep.

Morning. Five-days-worth of provisions. Careful searching up the mud o' th' mountain. This time, Ki decided to

travel two days to exactly one fern, wish upon it, and take two more days to get back home. "I wish for all

hunger to be abolished everywhere." Ki desired it as strong as possible, for one must not only wish but also

strongly desire for the wish to come true. Back down the mud o' th' mountain. Starvation. Wrong fern.

One-month's-worth of provisions. Ki didn't care how long it took.

First day. The trees. The sky between the trees. The sky above the earth being blocked by each leaf from each

branch from each tree; all rooted in the mud o' th' mountain. Left foot, right foot. The animals. They felt Ki's

prescence. Left foot, right foot. I can see them, I can feel them. Stop. Rest. Get up. Keep moving. The ground

under my feet, the grass, the bushes.

A fern.

"I wish my clothes were red."


"I wish I weren't on this mountain anymore."

Still nothing.

Ki sat down next to this fern and meditated for twenty-three days. On the twenty-fifth day of the journey, Ki

walked down the mud o' th' mountain; he climbed down his own mountain, too. He gained nothing. Nothing changed

and everything was different.

The wise man asked, "Have you found the fern? Did you get what you desire?"

Ki answered, "Yes, I've found it. My wish has been granted; I've gained what I desire."


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