“Kya wondered how they could climb a tree or even get in a boat wearing those skirts. Certainly couldn’t wade for frogs; wouldn’t even be able to see their own feet.”

This quote occurs in Chapter 4, as Kya observes the other girls at school who are dressed in skirts puffed out by layers of crinolines. At school, Kya sees herself through the lens of nature, such as when she tries to disappear into her seat in embarrassment like a beetle hiding in tree bark. But the school around her feels unnatural to her, and she feels uncomfortable and ashamed as she’s barefoot, teased, and laughed at. When she observes the girls, the same girls she will go on to observe often throughout her life, she notes how out of place they would be in her world. Though their outfits allow them to fit in with human society, on the marsh, they would be at a disadvantage, unable to keep up with the natural lessons that Kya learns each day. While Kya uses the land to heal the injury in her foot later on in the chapter, the girls can’t even see their own feet in their dresses. This suggests an unnatural level of disconnect from nature and from their own bodies.

“[T]he marsh meadows ended, and dusty ground—hacked raw, fenced into squares, and furrowed into rows—spread before them. Fields of paraplegic snags stood in felled forests. Poles, strung with wires, trudged toward the horizon. Of course, she knew coastal marsh didn’t cover the globe, but she’d never been beyond it. What had people done to the land?”

This quote occurs in Chapter 27, as Kya leaves the marsh area for the first time and travels with Chase to Asheville. In this moment, when Kya sees the land outside the marsh for the first time, she is horrified by what humans have done to the land. Her language emphasizes the unnatural way humans have asserted their dominion over the land, using violent words like hacked. Kya looks upon the land like it has been injured, using words like raw to invoke the idea of a wound and paraplegic to invoke a sense of systemic injury. She also notes how humans have imposed their unnatural sense of order on the land, taking what was wild and unrestricted and caging it into squares and rows. She notes also that people put cement and plastic representations of nature on their lawns, such as flamingos and deer, suggesting a desire in these humans to recreate and control what they have already in many ways dominated and destroyed.

“Waiting for the verdict of her own murder trial brought a loneliness of a different order. The question of whether she lived or died did not surface on her mind, but sank beneath the greater fear of years alone without her marsh. No gulls, no sea in a starless place.”

This quote occurs in Chapter 54, as Kya sits in her jail cell waiting for the jury to deliver their verdict. If convicted, Kya faces the possibility of the death penalty, but here she reflects that what scares her more is the possibility of being in jail for the rest of her life, separated from the marsh she loves. This suggests that she would rather die than be trapped in the metal and cement of the justice system. For Kya, this part of human society brings her to a new level of loneliness in which her only solace is the curtailed view of the ocean through her window and the courthouse cat. It is not being separated from people that makes her lonely, but being forced into a world devoid of nature, separated from the land that is her family.