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.”

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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Dancing Into the Apocalypse

“The street prophet with the fateful warning is undeniably right: the end is near. I will die. Meanwhile, there is work to do, there are people who need help, tastes to savor. I hope that I may live ethically each moment until my personal apocalypse.”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. […]

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In Translation: Losing a Language

“Sitting across from each other, we are trying so very hard to communicate. I apologize to her repeatedly for misconstruing what she attempts to tell me. She searches futilely for the word I will understand, for the English word which holds her meaning. More time! More time.”—William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. […]

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Shaped by Sophocles

“I suspect it is not so universal an experience as the good head-shrinker supposed, but we in the West are Freudians now, and Oedipals, as well, and killing our fathers is expected of sons. Metaphorically speaking.”  —William A. Balk, Jr. Epicurus’ Porch By William A. Balk, Jr. ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—6/6/2016—Sons and fathers are meant to come to loggerheads. […]

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The Almost Naked Dancers of The Lone Star Cafe

“My friends, Cliff and Jim, had come to the ecdysiastical profession at different times. Jim had been dancing—and stripping—on stage in New York for several years. He had learned from some of the biggest names in the business: Damian, Thor, and, most famous of all, Scorpio. I had seen Scorpio perform, and his fame was […]

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