Feathers (Feathers = The Bond of Friendship)
The feathers represent friendship. That’s how Tate and Kya began their interactions. After that initial time, where she had needed his help, Tate had found it the best way to reach out to her. He knew she was fascinated with the wildlife around them and saw feathers as treasures. They were something discarded by one and found by another as a treasure (much like Kya herself – abandoned by her family, discovered by Tate). The game of feathers carried on past their childish years, long into adulthood. It was more than a game – it was a way of communicating. The feathers’ exchange was Kya’s first time holding a dialogue, not with words but with the actions. They would each take a turn to leave a feather. That opened a line of communication, and it was a big step for Kya not only because she was otherwise alone, but because she was also shy. Throughout the book, they continued to exchange feathers as gifts in times of need, love, and hardship. It was a display of affection.
Seagulls (Seagulls = Family)
The seagulls on Kya’s beach represent family. A family that is always there, with her, around her. One that she can confide in and feel safe around. They allow her a connection, grant her an ability to interact with another living creature, and they value her and enjoy her company – perceiving her as a non-threatening part of the beach and their flock. When Kya’s family leaves, all she has left are the gulls. Later on in her life, when she realizes one of her sisters started to feed them and gather them to the beach, it comes full circle – to the idea of family and family ties.
The Marsh (Marsh = Home)
The Marsh is often used as a metaphor for Kya herself: it’s a secluded, forsaken area left to grow wild, and to its own devices, underestimated and undervalued but full of life, and hiding great potential.
The Marsh is home to Kya in more than just the physical sense. It’s her place of comfort. It’s where she’s free—a place where she is not judged but accepted. The Marsh represents life itself. It’s home to many creatures, Kya included, and as is stated in the book, cares and provides for all of them. If it weren’t for the bounties of the Marsh, Kya would have starved long ago. It offered her protection from people trying to ’get her.’ It provided her with entertainment, knowledge, and later on – a source of income. It’s her place of solace. As it cared for her, while she was growing up and struggling to survive, once she was able to persevere, Kya made sure to return the favor. She made her piece of the Marsh into a conservation area and ensured it would remain wild and free. She saved her home.
Poems (Poems = Connection to the Outside World)
The poems Kya recites, and the ones we later learn she wrote herself, are an outlet to her. She uses them as a way to reach into the world, which she has otherwise discarded. She wants nothing to do with the people of Barkley Cove, or any other people at that, but with her poems, printed under a pseudonym; she was free to connect. The people who read them could have a genuine, unbiased opinion of them, free of prejudices and judgment with which Kya’s name often got tangled. Poems were a secret and offered her a way to touch people from a safe distance.