The cover of Alexandra Hurwitz’s book, On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation, could have been the only book on the shelf at the New York Public Library Store. It had me from the beginning. Before I knew it, I was reaching instinctively for its captivating gold and sepia-toned cover and wondering where the author’s forays into the familiar – her “eleven walks with expert eyes” around the ordinary city blocks of her own neighborhood – would take me.
Why do we often miss what is in plain sight? Why does so much of what we see go unremembered? How could having a walking companion serve to open our eyes? Or, maybe, as Ms. Hurwitz suggests, do more than just open our eyes by opening our hearts and minds as well.
Ms. Hurwitz’s walking companions, her “expert eyes,” ranged from her inquisitive, tuned-in 19-month-old to the fabulously talented illustrator, writer, artist, and designer Maira Kalman. With each walk on roughly the same familiar streets with 11 different companions, Ms. Hurwitz reveals the rewards of paying attention, of being mindful, and of truly being with the companion of your journey.
Each day, at Caroline Center, we walk on roughly the same familiar streets with our trainees as our companions. And, we take this walk with the benefit of their “expert eyes.”
I hadn’t thought of it quite this way until I read On Looking and then, more recently, I spoke with our counselors and social workers about their specific gifts, the roles in which they serve, and the many ways they contribute each and every day to educating the “whole woman” at Caroline Center.
Here’s what I learned. This education is all about the journey. It’s about the walk we have each promised to make alongside every woman who commits to doing her career training here. It’s about the risk we have all pledged to take to be more attentive, more mindful, and more open-hearted to one another.
It’s about the transformation that education and being able to see with another’s eyes make possible. It’s about real change that is bone deep as well as deeply personal – change that is so powerful that it radiates outward to families, neighborhoods, entire communities, and the world.
Caroline Center’s Director of Social Work Services Vicki Cofield-Aber, LCSW-C, shared this amazing insight: “At Caroline Center, I walk with the women. I listen deeply to them because I know that within their personal narratives they will find healing and hope.” Here’s a sage observation from Director of Counseling and Social Work Holly Knipp, LCSW-C: “I hope that I am helping the women make meaning of their lives by showing them that while you cannot change what may have happened to you in the past – you can change the meaning of those experiences, even how you think about those experiences – and, you most certainly can change your future.” Director of Counseling Nicole Robertson, MS, NCC, LGPC, had this wonderful reflection on the journey: “At Caroline Center, I accompany the women on their journeys so that, ultimately, they will be able to see all the potential they hold. As they journey, I want to help them to be able to recover their emotional availability for others – to be open, compassionate, and strong.”
It’s almost summer. So, go outside and take a walk. Then, take the same walk with a companion – your favorite “expert eyes.” And, if you find that you like doing this so much that you could do it over and over again, you might want to consider walking with Caroline Center. We hope you do. It’s bound to change the way you see the world.