There is an albino raccoon who lives by Lake Merritt in Oakland. I first saw him many years ago now . . . it was cold and nighttime, and I think in late November. And I was walking a lap around the perimeter of the lake when I saw him and his three siblings run in a single file across the sidewalk to some trash beneath a tree there. This was on the Lakeshore Avenue side. Somehow I was able to take a few pictures:

Sometime later, I remember my friend Alayna mentioned she had seen an albino raccoon by the lake, and I knew it had to have been the same one. And as time went on, other people mentioned that had seen him too. This dude seemed omnipresent.

Usually I end up at Lake Merritt when I feel rotten as hell and just want to be alone and near water. I have been doing this several times a month for probably a decade. Every now and then I would get lucky and see the albino raccoon and his three siblings. They’re always charging around like a single organism, with the albino in the middle. Seeing them felt like gazing into some secret world. I came to think of the albino raccoon as an elemental spirit or minor deity of the lake. Seeing him and his brothers felt like a little blessing.

And then I just sort of stopped going to Lake Merritt for a while on account of the pandemic, and being away from Oakland . . . so I stopped seeing the albino raccoon as well.

The other night I was walking home from the BART station on 19th Street. It was cold and felt kind of bad about some things for whatever reason. I turned onto Harrison and saw the fountain lit up and the birds sleeping on the wooden dock there. The homeless dude who usually sleeps on the stone bench was missing and I wondered at it. As I turned onto Grand Avenue, I saw three raccoons scamper across the street in a single file from the lake towards the Episcopal church nearby. The raccoon in the middle was the albino. I couldn’t believe it! It had been two years since I’d see him. I decided it was a good omen and felt a little better just then.

Well: I’m glad he’s still alive and running around out there with his brothers. He is the protector of lake . . . we need him! Albino raccoon, hallowed be thy name.