The North Atlantic at Jökulsárlón is monochromatic, but full-range. The volcanic sands, in various stages of tidal wetness, shade from absolute black to medium grey; the sky is the color of doves; the ocean, mercury; and against these shades the whiteness of the waves is of an almost-blinding intensity.
Within this black-and-white world, the transparent and translucent blues of the glacial ice shine with a strange and compelling otherness: they seem to belong to the sky more than the land or sea, but only to our idea of sky, not the one that exists here. But once the ice is cast ashore, both in huge chunks sculpted by the waves and tide, and pitted or polished pieces the size of a head or hand, it becomes crystal: glass sculptures on black velvet stretching for miles along the lacy, foaming edge of the sea.
We walked along this astonishing beach for an hour while gulls shrieked overhead and a pair of seals played around the icebergs, enchanted by the forms of the ice and compelled by the fact that we were touching pieces of the ancient glacier, as the ocean slowly licked it back to water. I put my hand into the ocean; it was very cold but not as painfully numbing as I'd expected. And, instinctively, I raised a handful of black sand to my lips and touched it with my tongue, wanting to taste its salty grittiness and somehow link my body to this place.