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What Words Can’t Capture

These days, I’m neck deep in editing. I won’t say I’m drowning because, truly, I’m enjoying the process and loving what’s coming from a “fresh look” at many of the chapters, a few which I wrote nearly two years ago. But it’s certainly laborious. It’s long days at the computer, reorganizing, revising, reinventing, etc. Some days the words seem to crawl together on the screen like the black ants that converge nightly in my kitchen. Most days I leave the house feeling as though I’m leaving “my cave” – ugh! The light stings the eyes! My Ugandan neighbours probably think I sleep a lot. (Lazy muzungu.)

That said, it was a pleasant reprieve this week when my colleague, KJ Dakin, a Canadian photojournalist, sent me samples of her stunning visuals of Guatemalan female farmers and my words were suddenly brought into colour and focus. KJ and I traveled together to Comitancillo, Guatemala in Spring 2014. In many ways, she helped me kickstart and shape my research process for the book.

Working with a professional photojournalist (and talented writer, I should add) is such a joy. At the end of our long days of doing interviews, we’d look at her raw images and recall the details of interviews — what was fascinating, unclear, intriguing and so on. We’d wake early in the mountain cold and seek out cheap desayunos together at tiny mom and pop restaurants: suck back those super sweetened black cafecitos to wash down plates of scrambled eggs, beans and corn tortillas. And we’d travel those wretched country roads together. The exhausting series of chicken buses, the crossing of borders and so on.

That’s why I’m over the moon that KJ has agreed to accompany me down to Sonoma County, California, next month for the “final” (I mean it this time) chapter of my book. I’ve realized one of the themes that hasn’t emerged yet is a focus on women migrant farm workers. Much of U.S. agriculture production depends on the labour of men and women who’ve left their homes and farms in Mexico and Central America to cross the U.S. border (legally and illegally) and seek out seasonal contracts.

In mid-November I’m flying to Vancouver to meet up with KJ and we’ll drive down the Pacific Coast to reach California. It’s a journey I’ve always wanted to take, but taking it with KJ and for the purpose of Women Who Dig makes it that much more of an adventure.

Be sure to check out KJ’s amazing images to see what words can’t capture (even 80,000 of them!)