Author Archives: William A. Balk, Jr.

Born and reared in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina, William A. Balk, Jr. was educated at the state's namesake university, became an activist confronting the power of the modern State and its military, and spent two years in a radical gay commune in the nation's capital. He has taught textile construction and design for the Smithsonian and Textile Museum in Washington, collected modern porcelain masters, and has submitted to a peculiar affinity for independent book stores. Balk returned to the South Carolina Low Country in middle age, as well as to his extended family, and a literary life lived largely out of doors. Book stores and gardening remain his perennial passions, as does writing. Like one of his heroes, Epicurus, whose philosophical school was called “The Garden,” Balk's aim has long been “to attain a happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.”

Lost and Found

“‘It has to go all the way to the beginning!’ Holding her hand, I asked (carefully, because questions would arouse consternation) if she wanted me to tell her who she is and how she got here now. ‘Yes!’”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—February 2018—“I can’t understand! […]

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Cinema Verité

“The Cerberus always had an unusual film showing, so it was almost every week that we’d go see something there. A couple of times a year, they would mount a week-long film festival, and I can remember hurrying the block and a half from my fourth-floor walk-up to Connecticut Avenue to meet Agnès Varda, and […]

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The Queen of the Garden

“Thousands . . . . There was a time when my obsessive-compulsive impulses had me determined to get one of every kind; fortunately, my obsession expired before my financial resources.”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—The first of the cold snaps have come and gone and […]

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Summers Remembered, Seasons Foreseen (Best of WH)

  “Summer’s heat brings changes. The exuberant flush of wild growth and mad flowering, the unstoppable compulsion to reproduce that defines callow springtime, gives way to a slower-paced savoring of the gifts of the new season. Warmth is plentiful—indeed, sometimes too much so; clouds of insects perform winged Eros’s role, intermediaries in the reproductive dance […]

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Dr. Franklin’s Tree & The Bastard Progeny

“In modern times, the work of plant explorers has not disappeared. In the last century, over a thousand previously unknown species of orchid have been found in Ecuador alone! Great plant hunters like Dan Hinckley, who created the world famous Heronswood Nursery in Washington State, still climb mountainsides and crawl along riverbanks in search of […]

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Nothing to Wear! Nothing to Wear!

“Paisley became the center for the largest production of these fancy Victorian manufactured shawls, lending its name to the pattern motif so strongly identified with the shawls woven there. That ‘Paisley’ pattern immediately suggests an elongated rounded droplet shape, with the pointed tip drooping. Someone old enough to remember the hippie styles of the 1960s […]

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Animalia Domestica

“I would often be left under the watchful care of the young dog, by now an adult but still unbred, while my parents and grandparents busied themselves with their responsibilities. Still unable to stand on my own, I would pull myself upright by grabbing hanks of Buppy’s lustrous coat, and she would stand firm and […]

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Spare Me the Heroics

  “Once again, I was without heroes, and I was becoming quite cynical about the entire idea of heroism. As I became increasingly involved in civil rights work and in the anti-war movement, my focus shifted from looking for a guiding mentor toward a greater sense of personal responsibility in finding ways to help improve […]

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The Winter Solstice Confronts the Lazy Gardener (Best of “Hubris”)

“The gardener’s role is never completed: there is always something needing attention and, at every turn, there are rewards—joys, gifts—for the gardener that make it easier to get off one’s lazy behind.”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. “Winter Bloom,” by Si Griffiths. BEAUFORT South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 19, 2016—Like many another […]

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A Lie? ’Tis But The Truth In a Masquerade

“The paired masks of the muses, Thalia and Melpomene, Comedy and Tragedy, hint at the expanse of expression and the range of characters contained in theater. They also suggest the duality that masks represent: character revealed or character hidden.”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2016—Her sudden, […]

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