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.

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.

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.

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