I read widely and have heard various estimates of the age of the universe. Nearly 14 billion years. Big number. Numbingly big number. A recent Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), Where Your Elements Came From, shows the periodic table of the elements, color coded by what kind of star or event produced them: the original Big Bang fusion, massive stars, ordinary stars, and various collisions. The bulk of the elements of life are from exploding massive stars (novas and supernovas) with smaller amounts from exploding white dwarfs. Gold is from merging neutron stars. All but hydrogen, helium, and some of the lithium are recycled from stars long ago and far away.
That hit me in a way numbers doesn’t. This planet I’m standing on is millions of years old. The elements it is made of are hundreds to thousands of times older. Really old.