It’s embarrassing to admit that my first contact with National Geographic came in my grandparent’s bathroom. Tucked behind the toilet tank, a stack of magazines with their distinctive yellow border on the cover stood out among the peach and seafoam green décor. Inside that cover, beautiful photo spreads of faraway places I had yet to imagine existing, let alone visiting.

Their purpose in the bathroom was clear, even to my five year-old self.

Second contact, the song, a theme of rising horn blasts that are accompanied automatically by visuals of large cats stalking their way through a jungle, or a group of elephants bathing in dust on a barren plain. Lazy Saturday afternoons spent watching National Geographic when channels 2, 4, 6, and 28 were the only options supplied by my thrifty educator parents.

So when in 2014 Spokane’s WestCoast Entertainment announced that the prestigious National Geographic Live! would be making its way to Spokane four times that year at the INB Performing Arts Center, I had an idea of what the presentation would be. Most likely some professorial-type presenter, who would use big words to talk about things that I wouldn’t understand. Horn music, pouncing pumas, obligatory space shot, perhaps a pre-recorded message from the venerable Neil deGrasse Tyson (so dreamy)!

That was before I held a space wheel (I repeat, SPACE WHEEL) in my hands. I had just spent a rapt 60 minutes listing to an actual NASA Engineer, Kobie Boykins. Boykins was one of the engineers who was tasked with planning how to design, launch, land, and follow Mars Rover Curiosity on its journey from Earth to Mars. Apparently Neil isn’t the only dreamy space guy out there.

Did I mention he brought a space wheel with him?

Last month, I found myself charmed by the young – I think I’m old enough to call him that now – Bertie Gregory. A 23 year-old wildlife photographer who spent his childhood obsessed with biology, and already has credits hosting an international web series chronicling wildlife right here in Washington State.

He was so charming, and so inspiring, that I wanted to run out of the building and grab every nearby middle school student and point at her and shout, “Look! This is what curiosity makes possible.” Even more, I want to travel back through time and yell that same thing at my 13 year-old self.

My life now exists in two stages BSW (Before Space Wheel) and ASW (you get the picture). You’re right, I’m being overly dramatic, but ASW I’ve made it a point to get to as many of the Nat Geo Live! presentations that I can. They never cease to be entertaining and educational. Somehow each presenter manages to stir within me what I can only describe as nostalgia for life, for humanity, for exploration. Nat Geo Live! was a big get for Spokane, and the fact that they keep returning to our community year after year says a lot about the growth happening here.

So if you haven’t been, take the time now, because you never know when opportunities for broadening your world view, and share an experience with others will come along.

Find your space wheel!

National Geographic Live! in 2018

Sorry you missed it | A Wild Life | Bertie Gregory, Photographer and Filmmaker

Photographer Bertie Gregory specializes in intimate shots of animals in their natural environment, whether that’s a frigid Vancouver beach or the streets of London. In fact, it’s in those spaces where nature and humanity coexist that he thrives—a result, no doubt of his teenage years chasing urban swans and pike with his camera. From up-close footage of a leopard stalking through Mumbai to evocative portraits of Vancouver’s elusive coastal wolf, he has mastered the art of capturing what binds animal and human together.

March 28, 2018 | View From Above | Terry Virts, NASA Astronaut | Learn More

Sometimes, a little distance is all you need to see things in a brand new way. For astronaut Terry Virts, his newfound perspective was from the International Space Station (ISS), where he installed the Cupola module, granting an unprecedented 360- degree view from the station. When he later became the commander of the ISS, he made good use of the Cupola, taking more photographs than any astronaut who came before him. Many of those images were later used in the National Geographic book View From Above and IMAX film A Beautiful Planet, but to hear Virts tell it, no photo can capture the perfect shade of blue from a sunrise viewed from outer space.

April 25, 2018 | Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous | Nizar Ibrahim, Paleontologist | Learn More

Meet Spinosaurus, the largest predatory dinosaur yet discovered—larger than T. rex—and hear the incredible story of how this prehistoric giant was almost lost to science, before being brought back to light with the help of a remarkable young paleontologist.