This is the monsoon season in Arizona, when the winds shift bringing moist air from the Gulf of Mexico that create thunderstorms, lightning, fires, and flash floods. We just had a huge storm last week with winds approaching 70 mph that blew down structures, trees and powerlines that left 100,000 people without electricity and no air conditioning in the middle of blistering triple digit heat.

I woke up the morning after to discover that half of the giant Salt Cedar tree next to our house had fallen off. The tree was here when we moved in 50 years ago, our pets are buried under it, we built a treehouse in it accessible only to grandchildren who knew the secret password and handshake. In that sheltered nest we’d hide from enemies, vanquish the forces of evil using our atomic slingshots, and plot heroic revolutions.

The half of the tree that survived was the one that supported the treehouse. Looking at it, I thought this a perfect metaphor for where I am in my life; an old tree whose branches are breaking off, but its trunk and roots still stand. The steps up to the platforms were intact, so I climbed slowly up but only to the bottom one. And sat in that magical hiding place, now no longer hidden by the foliage, and let my mind hear the laughter… and the stories.

“Storytellers are the entertainers of the spirit”, Isaac Bashevis Singer said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, and I think it’s accurate. Our survival as a species has less to do with the transmission of sperm and egg than it does through the transmission of our stories. Stories, rituals, ceremonies, kindle the spirit, ignite our imagination, and inspire our humanity,

Stories told from any platform, whether in trees, around fireplaces, in sacred congregation, or around the dinner table give lift to the wings of hope and possibilities, and they allow us to see beyond the ordinary limits; our stories are the most important gifts we leave behind.