Shrimp and oysters and sharks' teeth and in the midst of all this fun, even I get excited about birds

I haven't written much for the past few days - and apologize for that - because instead of sitting around doing the semblance of work, and then some real work, lately, we've been out doing actual things that involve talking to the locals and being outdoors. I was glad for the change of pace. Not that we've been taking living rent-free on the Chesapeake Bay for granted, not at all, but I did feel that sort of tense I-am-on-vacation-vibe. You know it. Like, unless you're doing the whole Ernest Hemingway in "A Moveable Feast" thing - staying up all night and into the dawn eating local fare and drinking wine, hobnobbing with minor celebrities, and spending your days skinny dipping in the ocean or something - you're not really making the most of your time.

Back to back shrimp and oyster festivals this weekend, however, did the trick. My parents, Justin and I ordered a three-pound Ziplock bag of seasoned shrimp at the Shady Side Kiwanis Club annual Shrimp Feast Saturday night, sat down at a card table, and dug in, while listening to a local blues and rock band. We talked to our parents' friends who know all the dirt on everybody in town. We ran into this guy who had us over to his place for beers a few weeks ago after a group of us drank way too much wine and then sang karaoke at the local bar, the Snug Harbor Inn. An 80-year-old in suspenders asked me to dance, and I graciously accepted.

Point being, I felt like part of the community. Like I was truly experiencing this place and having a great time while doing so.

This feeling continued the next day at the Oyster Festival, where we listened to bluegrass - including the band that played while I walked down the aisle and during the reception at our wedding two years ago - ate fried oyster puffs, ran into many of the same people we had the night before, and drank $3 glasses of wine, or $2 beers, while watching the boats drift by, enjoying the perfect fall weather.

Too much? Too annoyingly cute and ridiculous, like a bad novel? I can't help it. It's true!

And it gets worse - because yesterday J and I decided to go on a day trip (I've stopped working completely for a while - a decision I feel both very good and kind of guilty about) to Calvert Cliffs State Park, where we took a hike through the woods to the shore and the feature attraction, the fossil-filled cliffs, rolled up our pants legs, and waded in the water looking for millions-of-years-old sharks' teeth. We talked to others who'd make the trek and were doing the same thing, or who were simply enjoying their days off, and the amazing weather.

And then guess what happened? We saw a Bald Eagle soar from the treetops above and down to the water, where it grabbed a fish in its talons and headed back to shore. Then another. Then, like, three more. Bald Eagles everywhere, flying over our heads and along the cliffs.

I'm not naming any names or anything but someone who happens to like birds was extremely pumped. Even started pointing them out to strangers. "Bald Eagle," he'd say, pointing upwards, smiling, his just-used binoculars swinging around his neck.

You get the picture. It's been an unforgettable few days, days that, I think, upon looking back, will really shape the memory of our sojourn here.

Or, at the very least, I think we've surpassed our reputation as simply "those drunk out-of-towners who sang 'Glory Days' and 'Son of a Preacher Man' at the Snug couple weeks ago," and the next time we join the locals, drinking at the bar, hey, they just might know our names.