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    a heron taking flight

    Covering the Cover: The Riddle of Nature

    A vivid watercolor painting of a hare embodies the energy of creation.

    By Rosalind Stevenson

    February 24, 2024
    • Kathleen Schmidt

      Just received my first issue & am absolutely thrilled! I love the cover art as well as all the art & photography inside. The articles are interesting & intellectually stimulating. I feel that I’m drinking from a deep well that satisfies a long held thirst. I’m telling others to subscribe as I’d love to discuss articles with them. I may even need to purchase some past issues! Well done my friends. 👏🙏

    What is the right relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world that surrounds us? When Adam and Eve were introduced to their Eden home, according to Genesis, “the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work the ground and care for it,” with instructions to “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” To subdue the earth, rule the creatures, and work the land, while also living in harmony and consideration within God’s creation; to celebrate and benefit from all that is good, without veering toward nature worship, on the one side, or reckless exploitation of nature’s gifts on the other – that is the riddle with which we are faced.

    a man and a woman praying in a field

    Jean-François Millet, The Angelus, oil on canvas, 1857–9

    Sixteenth-century German artist Albrecht Dürer explored this relationship with his captivating paintings. He once wrote, “Depart not from nature … for truly art is rooted in nature, and whoever can draw it out, has got it.” Taking the time to examine the minutiae of the created world we so easily pass by – the fine structure of a bird’s wing, the proportions of a powerful hare, or the hidden patterns in a swatch of wild grass – shows an attentiveness and an appreciation for the wonder of creation. We decided to use Dürer’s masterful watercolor painting of a young hare as our front cover art to illustrate the riddle of nature.

    cover of Plough Quarterly Issue 39

    Here is no cuddly pet rabbit. The wildness of its being is visible even in repose; every hair and whisker is alert to life, filled with the energy of creation, as if in echo of his painter’s thoughts: “The more precisely the forms in your work are compatible with life, the better it will appear. That is the truth. So never imagine that you can or should attempt to make something better than God has allowed his created nature to be. For your ability is impotent compared to God’s creativity.”

    Plough followers on social media will notice that this image was not among the four finalists we put up for voting. The simple reason is that we were unable to obtain rights (or, in one case, a high enough resolution file) for those images. With little time left to track down other contemporary artists, we resorted to Albrecht Dürer, who we are sure will not mind.

    painting of a heron taking flight

    Roderick MacIver, Heron Dance Art Studio, Heron Leaving III sketch, watercolor on handmade paper, 2010. Used by permission.

    Contributed By RosalindStevenson2 Rosalind Stevenson

    Rosalind Stevenson is the magazine designer for Plough. She lives at Fox Hill Bruderhof in Walden, New York.

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