River of Heaven

Gunkholing around the upper bay, one of the windjammer captains let me know that all of the schooners in the Maine windjammer fleet would be gathering that evening over in Naskeag harbor and I was welcome.

As the day drew close to a close, they all convened and dropped anchor off the Wooden Boat School wharf. Back aboard Raven after the big annual clam-bake, when it became clear that a few of them would have their sails up all night, I had the first gleam of the possibility of this photograph. In my mind’s eye I pre-visualized what – just possibly – it might all look like, and rowed ashore just as darkness finally descended upon all of us. 

The intoxication over what I beheld before me was compounded by the sudden realization that the Milky Way hung directly over the assembled fleet. Wonderful laughter and singing from the boats rang through the anchorage, punctuated by the lilting cries of loons at both ends of the harbor. It was, in all, a moment of transcendent beauty.

All of these elements swam into alignment without me really doing a thing, syzygy and dumb luck at their best. I felt - once again - blessed to simply bear witness.  

I knew that the perfect title had found me when I learned that a shared Chinese and Japanese term for the Milky Way is “river of heaven.” 

River of Heaven
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Meredith Ralston