Simon and Schuster, New York 321 pages
I nominate Alexandra Horowitz as spiritual companion for anyone who desires to see the world in the fullness of its glory. Not that Horowitz would accept the role – certainly not with a religious title. Nevertheless, she is gifted scientist and writer who renders the richness of the world through the ordinary practice of close observation. Yogi Berra famously said, “You can observe a lot by watching.” Horowitz proves that to be true in this collection of 11 essays describing the walks she takes accompanied by a variety of experts in fields ranging from urban sociology to geology. Most of the walks are in her neighborhood where she observes closely everything that is to see and hear. As a result of this close observation, the beauty and complexity of the world is revealed in all its glory. It’s this illumination that makes her a reliable companion for those who venture into what John Calvin said was the “theater of God’s glory.” It’s not only the ordinary sights she sees (and hears) that become wondrous in her telling, it’s also the scientific details she brings to her description that make it all the richer. More than once, I thought these observations must be akin to what the psalmist experienced proclaiming the trees shouting and the fields singing. A psychologist of canine cognition, Horowitz has also written “Inside of a Dog” and “Being a Dog.” Both books display the gifts she shares in “On Looking” and yield the same remarkable combination of scientific detail with illuminating observation. Indeed, a spiritual companion for my dog and me.