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. He has been a regular columnist for “The Lowcountry Weekly” newspaper for seven years; he is included in the award-winning book, Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy. He has assumed several new roles in recent years, including caregiver for his near-centenarian mother, advisor to the Pat Conroy Literary Center, and member of the Board of Directors for South Carolina Humanities. 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.” (Author Head Shot Augment: René Laanen.)

This Lifelong Voyage In A Paper Canoe

“I remember crawling on the dirt, crawling because I am unable to stand unassisted. I am underneath a structure, in its shadow, while all around there is bright sunshine on weedy grass. I feel energized and curious, not fearful, perhaps even excited. I am determined to reach the far edge of the shadow cast by […]

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Beginnings & Ends

“Christmas day, our mother began breathing uncomfortably, and that night we stayed up with her as her breathing became more and more labored. There has been virtually no possibility of her exposure to COVID-19, even through us, so that, perhaps oddly, wasn’t our concern. Rather, we’ve deduced that her heart valve problem has degenerated significantly […]

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Welcome to The Masquerade

“Since the isolation protocols began, I’ve baked bread loaves; I’ve done a cheesecake for a friend; I’ve made Dutch Babies when I was feeling nostalgic for my Grandmother Balk’s breakfasts; and I have indulged my sinful obsession for scones. Now, any Southern baker is trained from birth in the making of a great scone—only, she […]

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Of Buppy, Tatters, Lupe & Moggie

“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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Dealing With My Pot Problem

“I spent half a day mixing that stuff up, getting the texture just right, getting it slightly moistened and evenly crumbly—perfect for all the new plants I’ve got to pot up and all those old ones that need a bigger pot. All that work, and some fool goes and moves it out here where it […]

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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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