Sensemaking and pickle jars

I am sitting on the couch with two Karl Weick books next to me. One is called sensemaking in organizations and the other is about managing the unexpected. All Weick’s work is about sensemaking. I pulled them off my book shelf because of a sensemaking experience that I had when listening to the second of the two concerts with the Afghan kids at the New England Conservatory.

One of the pieces on the program was a raga with an American tabla player and a white-haired Indian ustaad (I presumed) who played the sarod.  Somewhat reminiscent of a band I listened to several months ago, I couldn’t figure out when the tuning was done and the music had started. My western frame about music’s beginning and endings, about hand and head movements left me totally senseless.

The American tabla player seemed to be preparing to play, rubbing his hands on his pants, putting a powdery substance on the center of his two drums but then he would lean back and shook his head as if in disapproval of what his colleague on the carpet was doing. Sometimes he seemed to be uttering words which also seemed full of disapproval.  I was utterly lost in trying to make sense because none of my western sense making had prepared me for this. What was going on? Had the raga started, was the ustaad still tuning and the tabla player indicating that the sarod was not tuned? Or was this normal for a raga played with tabla and sarod?

I don’t have such experiences very often and if I do it is usually not in the US. I might have concluded that few situations throw me off these days – me the world traveler. But maybe it means that I am spending too much time on familiar territory.  I haven’t travelled in 2 months.

We did make a small trip on this holiday afternoon (Presidents Day) to Dorchester Avenue to see Tessa and Steve’s new apartment. It is indeed brand new, the appliances still packed in blue plastic sheets, shiny polyurethane floors, freshly painted and water views from two sides through brand new double glazed windows.

Move in day is about 2 weeks from now. We checked out the neighborhood and found a Polish deli within a stone’s throw. It was packed with hundreds of pickle jars, jams and jellies, sausages of any imaginable kind, a large variety of frozen pirogis and blintzes, mushrooms and cards with images of a suffering Christ.

On the suggestion of the real estate broker who rented the apartments, a local gentleman, we ordered one sandwich which fed the four of us, one foot long and not very vegetarian. We bought our dinner there (also not very vegetarian): sauerkraut with smoked bacon and kielbasa and some Polish beers with a name we cannot pronounce. I cooked it all using my grandmother’s cookbook from the early 1900s. I added some spices (juniper, black pepper) that weren’t suggested at that time. It was to die for.

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