When I left Washington on June 27 for a trip, I left my backyard booming with wildlife. I have tried for years to make my backyard a refuge for birds, bees, bunnies, squirrels and the like. I provide water, food and housing for my fellow friends in trees and lush vegetation, and this year, it was noticeable that my friends were thriving. I have lived in my home for 30 years and enjoy the benefits of the Northwest, which have traditionally been large shade trees, rainy days and cooler temperatures without air-conditioning.

The record-breaking heat on June 28 changed that. When I returned from my trip, I was coughing and hacking from smoke inhalation. It started with a barbecue but eventually I was inhaling smoke from ground fires as I drove the 1,200 miles home. I ended up on my couch, where it was eerily quiet. No songbirds singing, no squirrels scurrying around my maple trees and no bees buzzing and pollinating my garden.

I am a tree hugger, gardener and lover of Mother Nature. June 28, the hottest day in the Northwest, was a reminder to us all to please consider how we humans can help our planet thrive.

Susan Parzybok, Redmond