Lindell Haggin’s passion for birds fueled her commitment to environmental activism. Now, her vivid photography adds an exclamation point.
Interview with Tim Connor
As much as anyone I know, Lindell Haggin proves the point that you don’t have to shout to be effective.
A few of her favorite birds, from our audio interview (left column):
I’ve known Lindell for 25 years and one of my favorite memories is being with her, years ago, on a bitterly cold day in late December as we were stalking birds (with binoculars) in a stream-side thicket. She’s been an Audubon Society member for most of her life and our purpose, that day, was to identify and count birds, by species, as part of Audubon’s annual, Christmas bird count.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but our most colorful songbirds are either absent in winter or, like the Washington state bird, the American Goldfinch, save their more colorful attire for the spring mating season. But the Ruby-crowned Kinglet wears its namesake, neon red crown (a mohawk, actually) year-round and we were following one, just for fun, really, as it darted from branch to branch. Kinglets barely sit still and not everybody would enjoy chasing them through a maze of young willows. But we did and, because I was clumsy and new at this, Lindell was smiling and joking as she was guiding me through the brush with whispers and gestures.
“One of my favorite birds is the Chickadee. It’s got a great deal of personality. Ounce for ounce, Chickadees probably have more nerve than many larger birds, including the Bald Eagle, because they will take on just about anyone, and anything.”
It was Lindell’s passion for the beautiful, intimate experiences that nature provides that drew her into being an activist. She was a member (and for her last six months, the chair) of the Spokane County Planning Commission during some of the most contentious years (2002—2005) of the county’s epic land-use battles. One irony of Spokane’s “Near Nature, Near Perfect” advertising slogan is that it would be a complete farce were it not for the persistent work of people like Lindell and her husband, Bart, who’ve devoted countless hours to resisting irresponsible and environmentally destructive development. I remember sitting in a stuffy meeting room ten years ago, as Spokane’s county commissioners, in order to placate developers, were arrogantly thumbing their noses at state law and the county’s own comprehensive land use plan. Lindell was there to testify on behalf of the Neighborhood Alliance. She delivered an unflinching protest and, when she finished, you could hear a pen drop. Actually, I think it was my pen.
On a somewhat deeper level, Lindell answers what, for me, is an elemental question about what it takes to convert love and passion into necessary civil confrontation. In short: How do nice people do hard things?
So, yes, our conversation, on the first day of spring, was largely about her passion for birds, and her emerging skill as a nature photographer. But as you’ll hear, her life is also about a walk into nature and to the challenges that await any of us who gather joy, and wisdom, and purpose from that experience.
Our interview was recorded at Lindell’s and Bart’s home, overlooking a bend in the Little Spokane River, north of Spokane. If you’d like to purchase prints of Lindell’s photographs, you can contact her via email at email@example.com. All photos in this story are copyrighted to Lindell Haggin, and provided with her permission to Rhubarb Skies.