1914: Tamanrasset, Hoggar, Algeria

Dear Br Sebastién,

If you know a priest who wishes to join me, you may tell him this: I have been alone for ten years. Infrequently, I let myself long for a companion, the clasp of a hand, the cadences of my mother tongue. My daily task is to imagine Jesus. I make pictures in my head: Him keeping company with me here, or else me in Nazareth, watching Him live His life among fishermen, harlots, the multitudes, letting Himself be condemned, flogged, and nailed for the saving of my soul. I work with my clumsy hands, donkey legs, and crooked back.

I am glad for these tasks by which I taste my neighbor’s life. I serve as druggist for Tuareg and Haratin; porter, hosteller, and confessor for strangers. I eat like the people of this country—barley and dates, berries, goat’s milk, an occasional tomato. I have survived winds that howl, scour, and sometimes freeze; sun that withers, burns, blinds; unceasing drought, cracks gaping in the ground like the mouths of the dead; then the rare week of rain that pounds, batters, soaks, saturates, washes the earth away. If you know some curious priest, hearty, mature, please share with him this letter.

About the author

William Kelley Woolfitt goes walking on the Appalachian Trail or at his grandparents' farm on Pea Ridge, West Virginia whenever he can. He is…

Read the full bio

Issue 15 · June 2012

Table of contents