Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship.
Three hundred years ago, Jeremy Collier and André Dacier wrote those words in a biography of Marcus Aurelius.
More than 100 years later, Charles Caleb Colton penned the idiom that’s far more common:
Imitation is the sincerest of flattery.
Why do I share the history of this saying?
Lovers around the world have been giving their nod to the love locks adorning the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris. Spokane is no different.
My running partner and I regularly pound the pavement on Centennial Trail. We head west from Mirabeau Point and make our way down to Plante’s Ferry where the Denny Ashlock Bridge crosses the Spokane River.
Its chain-link grills are dotted with padlocks that are etched with names and dates.
Ashlock was a community activist, dedicating much of his time to the construction of the Centennial Trail. He died in 1998 before he could see construction begin on his dream, Mirabeau Point Park.
Where, of course, Our American and I got married last March.
But back to the main story.
A great tradition
The love locks go back further than the Pont des Arts Bridge.
According to Wikipedia, the practice dates back at least 100 years to the Most Ljubavi bridge in Serbia. And it isn’t a sweet story about forever love either.
A local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman from Corfu. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak from her unfortunate love. As young women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet.
Good grief, it’s all about insecurity!
Ah well, time changes the meaning of many traditions (hellooooo, Christmas tree) and now we use the locks to symbolize the strength of our bonds.
Pont des Arts is the most famous bridge adorned with the love locks and city workers caused a stir earlier this year when they removed the locks, one by one. With hundreds of thousands of locks adorning the grills along the bridge’s walkway, city officials were concerned the weight would bring the panels down onto the boats passing beneath on the river Seine.
The local connection
The locks catch the eye as we cross the bridge on our runs.
The metal glints in the sun and I look for the names of the lovers, written in Sharpie marker or etched with the key I assume is tossed into the river below.
Our little love-lock bridge in Spokane Valley will probably never reach the weight or fame of Pont des Arts but it’s a neat connection to the tradition that unites lovers around the world.
And I’ll hope for the lock owners in Spokane Valley that their passion and love lasts well beyond the years their metal symbols sit on the Ashlock bridge.
Cheers to you, Paris!