Despite the dog days of August, those hot, muggy days associated since ancient times with the rising of the dog star Sirius, signs of summer’s exit surround me. Exhausted cardinals are at the end of their breeding season—the harried male shows up at the bird bath with tattered feathers and bald patches on his head. My seven-foot tomato tower is yellowing. The Japanese anemones are opening, last in the perennial blooming sequence. Cicadas and crickets are singing desperately on a deadline. Starlings and grackles are starting to gather in the bamboo. And the light is turning. I take the long summer daylight for granted, so it comes as a shock to open the blinds in the morning and notice the shifting angle of the sun’s rays. I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I planned—all those projects for home improvement and self-improvement that we traditionally assign ourselves for the quieter summer months (though I did finish the 800+ pages of Eleanor Catton's brilliant The Luminaries). Now I'd better hurry up before the rentrée, the "re-entering" as the French call it, when we are supposed to resume our busy lives with work and school. This is always a significant time for me, as my birthday at the end of the month marks the turning of another year. I didn't expect it to get here so fast.