2020-21: The Missing Years (posted February 4th, 2022)

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Wales missing years front cover

Regulars will have noticed a lack of recent updates to my weather-blog: however I have been far from idle. The weather of 2021 was rather ordinary, 2022 likewise (so far) and as I have said before, the emphasis from now on with this blog will be on exceptionally interesting events, which means there will be some years with little or nothing, others with several pages. More signal and less noise was one reason for making the change but there is another, and that's the books I have written since around 2011, the last two being parts of a series looking at the evolution of Welsh landscapes over geological time. Such projects take up an immense amount of time. The latest has now arrived.

Wales - The Missing Years (ISBN 978-1-9161655-1-9), published in late 2021, was my Lockdown Project. The Making of Ynyslas, that I wrote in 2019, may only cover the last 25,000 years or so but the Lockdown Project goes a lot further back in time, right back in fact to the beginnings of the Solar System. Pagewise, it's over twice as long as The Making of Ynyslas, given the sheer amount of material it covers. It took two lockdowns plus the time in between to write and edit. Indeed, the less spectacular weather (apart from those incredible August 2020 thunderstorms) helped me to complete this task!

The title concept is based on the fact that the oldest rocks we know of, here in Wales, are only about 700 million years old, whereas Planet Earth was formed more than 4,500 million years ago. What happened during that lengthy gap, making up those missing years?

The answer is that almost everything we all take for granted in our daily lives came into being, bit by bit and often by sheer good fortune. Stuff like breathable air, drinkable water, a mostly life-supporting climate, the diverse range of habitats created by plate tectonics and, indeed, life itself. Without those critically-important events back in our ancient past, we simply wouldn't be here.

Based on the latest peer-reviewed science, Wales - The Missing Years guides the reader on a journey through that deep time, exploring the origins of those vital-to-existence features of our home planet. Long before the first multicellular life-forms made the transition from living in the sea to colonising the land, Earth had already  been transformed - or, if you like, Terraformed.

Wales may have been late on the scene in geological terms, but every atom and molecule making up the country, its rocks, seas, skies and diverse inhabitants alike, owes its origin to the Missing Years. This, then, is a story that belongs to everyone in Wales and, indeed, on Earth.

Lots of disasters happened along the time-line, of course. Things like asteroid impacts, Large Igneous Province-type volcanic eruptions and so on: it's dangerous out there, on multi-million year timescales. Even the emergence of widespread photosynthetic microbial life was not without consequences: it allowed Earth's atmosphere to become oxygenated, which was bad news for the anaerobic community. What did impress me, though, was that after each and any such drama, Earth recovered time and time again.

That theme of healing is so recurrent that it makes me doubt if our worst excesses will, given enough time, wipe out all life on Earth. Even if we screw up so totally as to make large parts of the planet uninhabitable, the place will bounce back. It always has done: it just needs a few million years in order to do so. But in celebrating all the things that happened in order to provide us with our only home, it is my hope that the realisation will spread among readers that we live here by geological, biochemical and cosmological consent. Earth is a complex system, its processes all interlinked in diverse and long-established webs, some of which are more sensitive to damage than others, but none of which should be taken for granted.

Wales - The Missing Years (and indeed The Making of Ynyslas) are available online (price 9.99 and 7.50 respectively plus p&p) via the following links:

Coch-y-Bonddu Books in Machynlleth:

https://www.anglebooks.com/the-making-of-ynyslas-tales-from-an-area-the-size-of-wales-25-000-years-ago-to-the-present-day-by-john-s-mason-98895.html

https://www.anglebooks.com/wales-the-missing-years-tales-from-an-area-the-size-of-wales-4-567-to-700-million-years-ago-by-john-s-mason.html

Dyfi Osprey Project's new online shop (they also have Wales - The Missing Years but not in the online shop just yet):

https://www.dyfiospreyproject.com/store#!/The-Making-of-Ynyslas-%E2%80%93-John-Mason-SIGNED/p/405107688/category=60678072

Museum of Modern Art Cymru, Machynlleth (likewise, they also have Wales - The Missing Years but not in the online shop just yet):

https://moma.cymru/en/shop/products/the-making-of-ynyslas/

And at Aberdyfi, community art organisation Artworks has both:

https://artworksaberdyfi.co.uk/books/mason_john.html

If you are a bookseller and want to stock either title, then please contact me directly. Terms offered are identical for all sellers regardless of size: 35% discount off RRP for wholesale purchase.

For seasonal visitors to the area and locals, Ynyslas Visitor Centre, Cletwr at Tre'r-ddol and the independent bookshops in Machynlleth (Literary Cat, Penrallt Books), Tywyn (Clocktower Books, Talyllyn Railway shop), Llanidloes (Great Oak Books) and Aberystwyth (Ystwyth Books, Ceredigion Museum) also have stocks, on top of the outlets mentioned above.

Submerged Forest, Borth, Feb 1st
                  2022

Finally, here is a photo of the Submerged Forest at Borth, taken earlier this week: there's a lot more on display at the moment than there has been for some time so well worth a look if you are in the area. So let's see if 2022 produces anything impressive weather-wise, in which case there will be posts once again.




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