Even though I am all about experiencing life and not just letting it pass me by, I also have a deep appreciation for just sitting and observing the details of life we normally don’t have time to notice. Which is another reason why life in the islands was such a smooth fit for me. So much of how I was raised in the South matches the way of life here. Southerners and islanders have a strong affinity for porch sitting.

Sometime life forces you to slow down and enjoy the fine points of nature’s activities. While staying at my brother-in-law’s place after the storms, like most people we didn’t have cell service, Wi-Fi or cable. Power wasn’t a steady thing, either. So we spent a lot of time sitting out on the porch, watching the traffic go by, watching the planes take off and land and watching the wildlife. There was the neighbor’s dog, a stray cat, a lot of iguanas and all sorts of bugs and things.

One day we noticed a bush near the driveway that was covered with tiny black and white striped caterpillars. Over the course of the next few days we watched these caterpillars get bigger and bigger as they systematically stripped the bush of its leaves. They got to be longer than a man’s finger and fat like sausages. Then, overnight, they disappeared. It was fascinating.

Now that I am officially on break, I am free to resume this habit of porch sitting and watching nature in all its mysterious glory. I have been especially keen to get in some porch time because I recently hung up a bird feeder and a squirrel feeder that I made and I haven’t had time to really sit and see who has been visiting.

The squirrels are the most noticeable. I have two that hang around the most. Squirrelly Joe is the sneaky one. He comes down the oak tree and tries to get in the bird feeder. If I see him I usually shoo him on his way. Bob is the greedy one. He usually camps out on the limbs nearest the squirrel feeder. He makes it hard for Squirrelly Joe to get to the feeder, so that’s why I throw some of the feed on the ground. Bob also takes out all of the peanuts and buries them as soon as I put out new feed.

Once I moved the squirrel feeder further away from the bird feeder, I noticed more birds coming to eat. Mostly it has been small wrens and the occasional robin. A few chickadees showed up. I always have lots of cardinals in my yard, but they don’t often come by to eat, at least not in the morning.

One morning this week, however, I finally got a cardinal to come to feed.

I saw his bright red feathers as he made his way down from the pine trees to the small dogwood where the feeder hangs. When he got to the limb with the feeder, he spent a good five minutes just looking around, scoping out the area. Then he went in.

The gourd I used to make the feeder has a deep bowl, so most birds have to get in it to eat from it. He would hop down in it and then almost immediately hop back out to perch on the rim. He did this several times before I realized he was filling his beak with every quick dip in the bowl.

As usual, when you take the time to watch the rhythms of nature, so many life lessons become evident. This week’s lesson: Ya gotta eat. No matter who you are or where you are in your life, ya gotta eat.

Sometimes you are the caterpillar. Storms have come through your life and disrupted everything you know. You have to find the source of your nourishment and when you do, you have to eat. You can’t let whatever changes have happened in your environment distract you. You can’t put it off until a more comfortable time. You have to be selfish and focused and feed yourself, or else you will have nothing to fuel your transformation.

Sometimes you are Squirrelly Joe. You know where you are supposed to go to eat, but others are always blocking your way. When you can’t get to what you’re supposed to have, you have to find a way to get to what you can. Even if that means taking a chance and entering spaces you are told you aren’t supposed to go.

Sometimes you are Bob and you find a steady, reliable source of food. You want to protect it, but you also realize that others are going to get to it. So, to hedge your bets, you set some aside for later when times are leaner.

Sometimes you are the cardinal. You feel threats all around you to the point that you don’t think you can eat. But you must. So you swallow your fear and dive in again and again, until you can get your fill.

Whether the food is for the mind, body or spirit. Whether you have competitors and haters who want to block you. Whether you find yourself somewhere you don’t belong. Whether you do it now or later. No matter the circumstance, ya gotta eat.

You have to feed and nourish yourself and let nothing stand in your way. You protect your bounty, watch out for predators, focus on the process and get it in wherever you can.

— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at