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.”

The Natives Are Restless

“The great plant explorers of the 18th and 19th centuries found spectacular plants growing wild here in the coastal plain of the Carolinas and Georgia. Many of these plants were collected, studied, identified, and then promoted to gardeners in Europe. Then, no longer wildflowers and weeds, they were reimported to America as fashionable garden plants.”—William […]

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A Feast For All Seasons

“Repeatedly poring through Prospero’s introduced me to a far greater range of flavors and ingredients than I’d thought possible. To this day, whenever I come across the book’s recipe for Venetian Pastitsio, I salivate: it’s a huge pie, filled—like the proverbial kitchen sink—with chunks of game, pork, organ meats, fowl, and spiced with cinnamon and cloves, […]

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Ghosts In the Garden

“The ghosts of our predecessors here finally had begun—now that I was beginning to understand their language—to show themselves, to teach me what I had always missed about this mystical place. These ghosts had left their imprints in the very soil they had swept, and plowed, and planted, and I began to see their marks […]

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The Supreme Adventure

“Ma Twiggs (was) absorbed in reading a seafaring adventure story as she walked to the summer bath house behind the big house, stepping into the bath, only to brush up against one of the watermelons left to cool in the bathwater. She is said to have leapt out of the bath and run, screaming, ‘Sea […]

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Fire In the Belly (Best Of Hubris)

“I tried to get her to talk a little about her past . . . although I swore I would never ask about any of the famous names linked to hers over the years in the press. She would always smile, perhaps touch my arm, and say, ‘But you haven’t finished telling me about your […]

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Spring Has Blown!

“Certainly, the days are getting longer, but what I especially cherish is the change in the light, itself. It has a different quality from the low-angled blue-tinted light of winter. As the sun’s position in the sky rises with each passing week, the light becomes more direct. The new leaves on all the trees seem […]

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Winter’s Toll

“Climate change must inevitably mean garden change as well. The garden is in the process of changing all the time. As a gardener, I am always trying to impose my own intentions on the plants, on their environment, and on their development. At the same time, the global forces of nature are imposing their own […]

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Imbibing Spirits (Revived)

“He hopped a freight train one day, unannounced, and hoboed his way across the country. Reaching the end of the line in New Mexico, he spent the next year and a half as a working cowboy. He made no contact with his family back home until he was ready to return and, when he returned, […]

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Rollin’ On the River: A Naïve Gourmet in The Big Easy

“Indeed, the location wasn’t promising, competing for space with dozens of passers-by, including a corsage-bedecked nun (with a beard) and a short-legged dog who posed atop a three-foot pedestal for photographs. Very quickly, a server appeared to take drink orders (priorities!) and, just as quickly, another server stopped to give us the menu and explain […]

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Eatin’ Goober Peas

“It would be sad to have to miss out on the joy of reaching into a damp brown paper bag, removing a fat, soft, whole peanut in its soggy shell, popping the entire thing in your mouth and gently biting/chewing/sucking out the salty juice and the soft-cooked nuts inside . . . and then spitting […]

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