As a student, Thayer had given most of her attention to portraits and figure painting. A few years after her marriage to Donald C. Starr, an enthusiastic yachtsman, she agreed to give sailing a try. It did not take well, and after two weeks of seasickness in a small boat with a few close friends, Thayer asked to be put ashore at Old Lyme, Connecticut. She was stunned by what she experienced:
I wanted to kiss the ground! I’d never felt about the land as I did then. It was newly revealed to me, as if I’d been born again... There’s a primitive quality... There it was, and I wanted to celebrate it, praise it, it was so wonderful... I went to a little inn, and got out my paints, and just painted like mad.*
She became fascinated by the interplay of intimate detail and vast generality she witnessed in nature, and investigated their relationship in paint, pencil, pen and charcoal from that time forward.