Before the heaviest snows came, the girl walked for many miles, her feet echoing over wooden bridges, clambering over tree roots, and shuffling through leaves tattered as forgotten letters.
She never followed railroad tracks, preferring to cross them and move on, off into the cover of the forest. She was not sure what she sought, but her feet and her heart knew she wouldn't find it in the cities where the railway led.
Each night she made her bed from the forgotten leaves, with pine needles as her pillow.
Always the towers of distant cities beckoned to her, but still she moved on, deeper into the wild. As winter slipped further into its icy slumber, ponds and lakes froze, turning to silver mirrors that reflected the sky. Sometimes the girl slid and spun across the glass surface, pretending the clouds were beneath her and she was a red-tailed hawk, circling the world below in great, sweeping gyres. Often, she broke small bits from the edges of the sky to hold in her mouth, letting the ice melt and and slip down her throat, making her shimmer inside.
In her pack she carried a folding knife and bits of hard crackers and a notebook and pencil for remembering small but important things. She wasn't lonely as she walked among trees and grasses and reeds. She knew the calls of birds and the chatter of squirrels. She knew the comings and goings of foxes. She knew the way of things--how they begin and how they end and all the in-betweens.
She knew nothing is certain, all is ever-changing, for she had seen in winters past how even the thickest of ice melts and the sky returns to its proper place in the heavens. Yet she came to value uncertainty as much as her trusty knife and pencil. Long ago, the old man had taught her that everything we fear can be honed and shaped into the finest of tools. She had sharpened and polished uncertainty until it glistened each evening in the light of the setting sun.