Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Former Shawville postmaster publishes book of spiritual reflections

Esther Colpitts, known to many as a former postmaster in the Shawville post office, is a woman of faith.
Anybody who has read her contributions to THE EQUITY over the years in the form of a semi-weekly column will know this.
Her short, almost poetic musings about the smallest moments or details from her daily meanderings offer wisdom and guidance to readers, religious or not, about how to navigate this world of chaos with grace and acceptance.
Each window into Colpitts’ life is framed by her faith in God, and each reflection concludes with an insight into what it means for her to trust Him and His plan for her life.
In one, she writes about noticing one squirrel carrying another, of equal size, in its mouth, without being able to figure out why this squirrel was doing this. “It is hard not knowing why, no matter what the circumstance,” she concludes in that column. “We always want answers and sometimes they do not come.”
In another, she writes about how accidentally buying an electric lawn mower after misinterpreting the labeling on the box compels her to reflect about how we cannot ever really know what is happening underneath the surface of a person.
Now, she has published a collection of these reflections and stories in a book. It is called The Apple Outside My Window: Things I Learned in a Little Town, and it is an ode to both her faith and to the small but beautiful riches that life in Shawville has brought her over the years.
“If God doesn’t care about the little things in my kitchen and in my little life, then He doesn’t care at all,” Colpitts said.
Writing to process her world
Colpitts has been writing since she was a young girl in a childhood she described as filled with “limitations and little sadnesses.”
She said she used writing as a way to process the chaos of her world and sometimes invent new ones.
“Maybe that’s part of why I write,” she wondered. “It’s part of who I am to be able to put down and record things.”
Colpitts was born in New Brunswick, but her parents moved to Ottawa when she was a small child. After her parents split up, her mother began sending Colpitts and her brother to church, where someone taught her that Jesus had died on the cross for her.
“That blew me away, that somebody cared enough about me to die for me,” she remembered. This was the beginning of her life of faith.
Colpitts said she always dreamt of returning to the maritimes, alluding to a feeling of being displaced, raised disconnected from where her roots were.
She never imagined she would end up in the Pontiac.
Before moving to the area in the mid 80s, she was living in Wilson’s Corners, near Wakefield, running a small post office with her husband while raising her three boys.
During that time the post office saw two armed robberies, so the family moved to a farm in Bristol to ensure it would not be victim to another.
“You think you know what you want, you say you know what you want, but you don’t know what’s around the bend,” Colppitts reflected, regarding what felt like a strange and unpredictable decision to move to the Pontiac.
“The fact that I believe God orchestrates things conquered my fear of this change.”
Writing waned, but never her faith
Just over 30 years ago, Colpitts’ son Glen disappeared from a Christian summer camp he was attending in northern Quebec. A search tried to find some clue as to what had happened to him, but came back with nothing.
“When I first came back from the search, I thought, ‘What do I do? I don’t have any money.’ Because I wasn’t super brave or adventurous,” she remembered of those painful first weeks after he went missing. But Colpitts is adamant that this tragedy did not shake her faith.
“It tortured me that I couldn’t have my son and, but I thought for the longest time, ‘God will take care of him and maybe he’ll be found’,” Colpitts said. “That didn’t happen, but everything is ok because I believe he’s with the Lord.”
While her faith did not wane, her ability to write disappeared completely.
When Colpitts picked up the pen again, seven years later, her writing came to her in the form of songs, and poems, “hundreds and hundreds of poems,” she figured. She began to record her songs onto CDs and her words onto paper to try to achieve some kind of permanence, something that would last, and to share her emboldened faith in God with her community.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘your faith is a crutch,’ but it’s the only safe crutch to lean on because God will never hurt us. Sometimes he allows hurt because it will help us in the future,” Colpitts said.
The apple outside her window
Only a few months before Glen disappeared in 1993, he bought a small piece of land in Beechgrove, near Quyon, with a view of the Gatineau hills. It was there that he had dreams of building a house and settling with a family.
Years later, once Colpitts was finally ready to return there, she decided to fill it with apple trees.
“The picture on the cover is the first apple tree that grew,” she explained. Today, there are some 200 apple trees growing there. But the apples pictured on the book are not those that inspired its title.
When Colpitts was living in a house on Shawville’s Clarendon Street, there were three apple trees outside her window. She noticed one apple that hung onto its branch long into the winter, “all shriveled up and blowing in the wind,” Colpitts recalled.
“It felt like my life,” she said with a laugh. “You know, the fact that it was still hanging on there, despite everything.”
The book features 200 stories, about four years worth of her musings on whatever is outside her window, or down the street.
She admits she has not always known what to write about, and when she has been at a loss, she has prayed for inspiration, and usually, it works.

You can pick up a copy of Esther Colpitt’s book at Pontiac Printshop in Shawville


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