I received On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz from Simon & Schuster Canada last week.
This book documents 11 walks that the author takes with various “experts”. Alexandra walks with an urban sociologist, an artist, a geologist, a physician, a child, a dog, and a few others. Alexandra and her readers are forced to see things differently, to engage in the surroundings while walking, to see everything with eyes, ears, nose, and hands.
Although I sometimes felt lost and confused by the technical terms used by the geologist, physician, and urban sociologist, I learned so much about their various subjects and I found it fascinating to see what they see. This book is a delightful combination of history, facts, stories, and lessons to learn. I must admit that I felt a little bit nervous while reading On Looking. I kept wondering what I was missing whenever I took my dog for a walk around our quiet suburban neighbourhood. I was scared that I missed so many things, that I walked around with blinders. I asked myself: when do I actually walk with my eyes open? When do I walk at full attention? When do I actually see things?
“Vacations are the adult exceptions [to the we’ve seen it all before attitude] … we actually do see new places and…we bother to look…some of our fondness for so-called vacation locales…is due to simply looking.” (Page 30)
I only SEE and really look around when I travel. My eyes are sometimes open so wide that my eyelids become sore. As I finished this book, I decided to add start looking and observing more when walking to my New Year’s Resolutions. I started today. I went for a walk with my dog and my boyfriend and we let the dog lead. We observed him, what he sniffed, what excited him, what made him walk faster or slower. I paid attention to the things I’ve seen so many times over the last 15 years. I thoroughly enjoyed this walk. Here is what I saw…
And so, Waffles led the way.Choosing a route that we’d never taken before. It was cold, damp, and surprisingly quiet out.
What happened to that broken branch? Why does this tree look so sad?
I’ve walked by this post a million times and just noticed the graffiti on it. Who wrote it? What does it say?
Waffles didn’t care much for these tires. How long have they been there?
Where’s his head?
The twigs create a path, circa 1997.
He saw something, felt something, kept sniffing, looking up at the dead trees.
I plan on taking more walks, with my eyes wide open. I look forward to the next time I go downtown, the next time I can look at buildings and appreciate them, the next time I can pick apart signs, the next time I smell something different. I’ve got a long way to go, I’ve got a lot to learn but I’m ready to become more observant.
This walk is just the beginning…
** Title from page 259. **