Archive for the ‘Judith’ Category

A Hug From A Horse

Boerderij Dronkers - Belgisch trekpaard

Boerderij Dronkers – Belgisch trekpaard

It was stunningly cold, the frost was going to be a hard one that night and it was coming on top of the fog that had descended over the fields like a white duvet just before dusk. I had been inside all day with my mother, we were cooking foods for the weekend’s events in her big farmhouse kitchen. The large cooking range was as hot as I had ever felt it in my life and the whole house had the distinct odour of warm yeast and baked foods. After some ten hours I was all but half-baked myself and had to get some air. My guide dog and my oldest daughter’s assistance dog were also itching to stretch their legs outside having patiently hung about indoors for much of the day – though the procurement of scraps of fresh baked cakes and pastries did at least provide some other reward for them.


This time of the evening my wife was busy bathing our youngest two little ones so my sister offered to be my escort for a walk. With the dogs harnessed up and all of us wrapped up well in country outer coats, hats and scarves we ventured out. As my sister was going to be my eyes so she held my left forearm. Sissi was in her usual guard position on my right with my right hand having a firm grip on her handle of her harness. In the city at night I can see blurred lights, I can tell when I pass shop windows as the light pattern that my brain registers changes, but on the farm, away from the house or barns, it is simply black and so I would be blind. As I stepped into the blackness I was aware of my heart rate leaping towards panic and anxiety, these days I find it very hard to step into the dark. When this happens I have taught myself to think of all those who are truly blind and have to find courage for each step they take, thinking of them helps me to keep control of my own mind and stopping it from turning to mush. The sharpness of the biting cold air was permeating every centimetre of my lungs now, blasting out the day’s oven heat and re-energising my body. The skin on my face started reacting to the coldness and I felt my skin tightening as if the capillaries under my skin were freezing. While I could not see my breath as I exhaled I was aware of the warmer cloud of it as it condensed and drifted away, I was also aware of my sisters breath next to me floral and sweet. Not so sweet was the breath of the dogs wafting up to my nostrils. Happy to be out in the air they were snorting down great gulps of the country air and doubtless revelling in all the farm’s smells which to them must have been a bright colourful smorgasbord of sensations – wouldn’t it be wonderful if those who lost their sight gained a dogs sense of smell in return, imagine the pictures that must be painted in their minds by scents !

Boerderij Dronkers - Belgisch trekpaard

Boerderij Dronkers – Belgisch trekpaard

The further we walked the deeper the cold night air seeped into us, it was wonderful! Little tendrils of cold were working their way around my neck between scarf and flesh, and up under my hair where it was not covered by my fur hat. My moleskin pants, while fairly heavy, were slowly succumbing to the cold as my knees and thighs started to taste the cold breath of the freezing fog oozing through the tight weave of the fabric. From where my body came into contact with my sister’s I could feel she was talking to Hilke. In the dark we would not be straying off the farm paths both for my sake and Hilke’s so I guessed we were heading out towards the woods that screened the eastern flank of the farm and provided shelter for the house and farm buildings from the worst of the cold winds that swept off the North German plains and continental Russia. A tap on my left hand indicated that Carol wanted to talk to me so we paused as I removed my glove so she could sign onto my palm. The cold air gripped my hand like an icy handshake and only slightly warmed again as Carol held my hand and signed onto it. She told me that Hilke wanted to stop at the horse fields which lay between farm and woods and give the horses something. It would mean stepping off the path for a while, but the horses were well worth the risk. My parents have always helped with preserving rare and old breeds of animals and these included providing stabling and space for some Belgian Trekpaards (Belgian Plough Horses), the gentle giants of horses.


It is not easy walking over uneven ground when you cannot see, if you doubt this just try it for yourself with a blindfold. It is however very much easier when you have a sister and a guide dog who you would trust with your life. After a few minutes of slowly stepping over now frozen mud ruts we came to rest at the fence. Carols hand was replaced with Hilke’s much smaller, but much hotter, hand. With a speed I struggled to follow she told me that Opa had given her a big sack-bag of apples for the horses. She must have pulled the draw string open on the bag because a wave of sweetness hit my senses. There is no doubt that toffee made from Molasses has a very distinct smell. These were horse toffee apples and I knew from experience that on a cold night like this they were cap nip to any horse. Sure enough I felt the ground begin to thump under us, so did Sissi, she became nervous and I had to talk to her to calm her. In my mind I could picture the scene now unfolding – several very large animals, bred especially for their size and strength, would now be belting across the fog bound field shrouded in darkness. At a tonne a piece they would need every square centimetre of those very big feet of theirs to come to a stop before the fence and our little group and the slightly disturbing thought was that this was happening on a grassy field now covered in frost.


Boerderij Dronkers - Belgisch trekpaard

Boerderij Dronkers – Belgisch trekpaard

One moment I was standing there at the wooden fence surrounded by still blackness, enveloped by fog, smothered by cold, wrapped in the warmth of good clothing, an island of myself thoroughly internalised despite being out in the big external world. Then as the ground was pounding enough to feel like it was lift the soil underneath my boots the air suddenly exploded about us.


A wall of hot air was blasted over us, saturated with the dense, heavy odour of horses. The combined snorting, puffing and blowing of five pairs of huge horse lungs was being pumped out over us, radiant heat from five 16 hand horse bodies was suddenly right up against us. Excited horse heads were insistently nudging us now and it felt like they were amongst our little group despite the intervening fence. For a few moments I realised I would be on my own as carol would be busy making sure Hike’s fingers were not mistaken for food as molasses apples were snatched up by enthusiastic equine mouths. Once the horses realised that there would be enough apples to go around they started to calm down and took time to snuzzle us and playfully search through coat pockets. Despite their considerable size they are the most gentle, placid and considerate of breeds and are very affectionate. One of the mares, Dotty, draped her head over my shoulder and for all the world I felt like I was being hugged. She was pushing her nose into my part open coat over my chest and taking deep breaths in clearly enjoying something in my scent and her breaths out practically blew my coat off ! I thought it only fair to do the same so I pushed my face into her neck and breathed her in, as I did so I felt a ripple in that massive neck that seemed to be almost like a giggle rippling through her. For a while my entire universe consisted of enormous horse. I held myself close to her body running my hands over and over her head, neck and chest and her life pulsed and throbbed against my face. I drank her in and she filled my denuded senses, I was being hugged by a horse and my senses seemed complete – if I had ever been asked to guess under what circumstances this might have occurred – hugging a giant plough horse with a mother’s instinct during a black night of freezing fog would not have been it.


Dotty and I must have been locked together for some time. I was eventually aware of my daughters hand tugging at my coat gently, and slowly I came up from my immersion in this lovely horse. Sharp night air started to replace the warm muskiness of Dotty. My sister was holding my arm again and I felt Sissi stirring about my legs. A hand wrote on my palm, asking if I was ready to return but I was not sure. I was already aware of the sensory hole that was left as I broke contact. As we made to leave there was a blast of hot horsey breath on the back of my neck, Dotty was saying goodnight. I gave her one last rub on her face before the black walk back.


That night I did not sleep much but instead I ran my recollection of the experience around and around my mind enjoying it more each time. I had started a walk into total darkness fighting down my anxiety, working hard to stamp it down, yet finished it with my senses filled to overflowing and anxieties washed away, all thanks to a horses hug.


Judith vd R.


My Garden, Sensuality & Sex

Part I

It has been a long hot summer’s day, but now with sun set and the evening starting to cool it I  meandered through the summer paradise that is our modest walled garden in the heart of old Maastricht.



Botticelli's Primavera

Botticelli's Primavera

As I walked through my nigh time paradise my mind drifted to thoughts of that beautiful painting by Botticelli of spring called Primavera. In it Venus, precious and beautiful, is standing in the centre of the picture, set slightly back from the other figures. The figures of the Charites, also called Three Graces, are elegantly dancing a rondel. The garden of Venus, goddess of love, is guarded on the left by Mercury. It is a beautiful, wonderful, lovely painting full of symbolism and telling a story, as all pictures of that period did.

The painting contains images of nearly two hundred plant species. One, the myrtle plant that surrounds her is a plant that represents sexual desire, marriage, and child bearing. From the right, Zephyrus, the god of the winds, is forcefully pushing his way in, in pursuit of the nearly naked nymph Chloris clad only in a diaphanous gown. Chloris gave her name to chlorophyll, the substance that gives all plants their green colour. Next to her walks Flora, the goddess of spring, who is scattering flowers. Flora tells how she was once the nymph Chloris herself, and breathes out flowers as she does so. Aroused to a terrible fiery passion by her beauty, Zephyr, the god of the wind, follows Chloris and forcefully takes her as his wife, raping her. Regretting his violence, he transforms her into Flora. He makes his gift of contrition to her a beautiful garden in which eternal spring reigns. The painting actually depicts the two separate moments in the narrative, the erotic pursuit of Chloris by Zephyr and her subsequent transformation into Flora. She is beautiful with a rich flower garland on her head and delicate spring blooms erupting from her dress, arms full of flowers. Chloris/Flora, nymph, lover, mother, giver of life, force of nature. It is a painting that resonates with me on a number of levels.

One summer evening when I was in my very early teens I was in my grandmother’s sprawling garden. As we wondered arm in arm down her rose tunnel her lovely, lyrical, aging voice spoke a verse I had never heard before…

“Spring-time and Venus come, And Venus’ boy, the winged harbinger, steps on before, And hard on Zephyr’s foot-prints Mother Flora, Sprinkling the ways before them, filleth all, With colours and with odours excellent.”

She smiled as she told me that some of her best times with lovers had been in gardens. My Oma was famous for the long string of male and female lovers she had had in her life. Walking with her amidst stories of her lovers I found I was seduced by her garden, it was the first time I was aware that a garden could seduce you, but it was not the last. Ever since that lovely evening, I have been a prolific lover of gardens. In my time I have flitted from one garden to the next enjoying every brief liaison, and in some I have even indulged my own passions and lusts and given myself over freely to the botanical and the human delights with equal abandon.

Part II

This night I was wondering through my garden as I often do on summer nights, naked. I had shrugged my nightshirt off my shoulders as I left the hardness of wooden deck and stepped onto the cool grass. As my feet touched down on the soft, cool carpet of grass the first caress of the garden came and touched my feet, tickling little teases of grass between my toes, cool and soothing. The air of the night wrapped itself about my naked body pushing away the fog of the warm indoors and breathing freshness over every part of me with a caress as sensuous as any lovers kiss. Away from the house lights I was now blind, my sight no longer functions in low light, but it did not matter, I know my garden so well I do not need my now failing eye sight. I fancied I could almost navigate by smell alone. Turning left I could smell is the clematis along the Roman wall, turn right the first burst of Honeysuckle by the first border. I turn right to walk alongside the big stone and flint wall and my guide dog Sissi walks past me brushing my leg just enough to tell me that she is there watching over me like my own Zephyr, then she wanders off to take her own pleasure in the garden’s scents. Imagine if I had a dogs nose, how wondrous my garden would seem then. I could smell every tiny little bud, every mote of soil. I wondered if she could smell ladybirds, do caterpillars have a smell ? Does she see the smells of my garden as a haze of intermixing colours in the air?

 When you work your garden every day you can walk it by memory alone, I marvelled at how well I could move about despite not being able to see. Under foot I could tell where I was on the grass paths by the feel under my feet, by reaching out I could place my location by the feel of the plants that came into my hands. The Foxgloves filled my hands with their tall bell like structures so I had to be alongside the wall. I gently felt the separate little fox bells in my fingers and feel their delicate little structure as carefully as though I had my fingers in other intimate places.

Then I turned towards the long wildflower grass and stepped lightly into the patch and enjoyed the caressing of thigh high grasses and wild flowers. As I pushed through the light sea of grasses the lush smell of them washed about me, while all over my thighs delicate thin fingers tested and teased their way up. I bent forward and pushed my hands down into the gently rolling surf of grass and meadow flowers, the little strands and stalks between my fingers, crisp tight heads of grasses popping past me. The swaying heads played against my breasts, naughty little fingers reaching up to tickle and tease until I felt the familiar warmth of milk starting to let down. It felt like grass and meadow flowers were growing out of my legs, as though I was becoming Flora, how wonderful would that be, to breath out sapphire cornflower heads and golden Marigolds, sowing my garden afresh with each exhalation !

Then Sissi has circled back to me and pushed her muzzle into my right hand, the message for me to look about and pay attention. I looked and coming towards me silhouetted against the light from the house was a very familiar shape indeed. My very own Chloris clad in a diaphanous gown of fine white linen. In my mind I could make out the roll of her hips, that gentle swaying saunter she has that exudes sensuous sexuality. Wading through the floral surf she reached out and put her hands onto my hips and pulled us together. I smiled to myself as I realised her scent was Flowers a vivid mix of Jasmine, sweet pea and rose. I reached under the edge of her nightshirt and traced her nakedness underneath with my fingers, from the smoothness of her thighs, across the curves of her waist and across the flatness of her belly. Exactly a year before that wonderful belly had been great with child but now it was back to its normal gentle curvature while from womb to home our baby now slept soundly in the house. I un-did the buttons on her shirt and pushed it off her shoulders. As it dropped to form a white pool amid the darkness of the grass about her feet I stepped back . Chloris was naked before me. She took my arm and we walked the night time paths of our garden past Amethyst, Summer Sorbet, Wisteria and Akebia.

Author: Judith van der Roos.





Guide Dogs: “Please Do Not disturb Us”

When you are out and you see a person with an Assistance Dog (for blindness, hearing impairment, disability, epilepsy etc) PLEASE do not distract the dog because the results of you doing so can be unfortunate for the person they assist. This rather good video from KNGF (The Dutch Guide Dog body) is amusing but is also a good illustration.

Sissi – Hearing & Seeing Dog

A few weeks ago I was walking into town to do the day’s chores. It was still early in the day as I pushed the buggy with Mariaske and Joost on board, my guide dog Sissi was with me of course. Sissi protects my right side as I am now blind in my lower right quarter. We were about to swing onto Minckelersstraat from the alley behind De Bijenkorf when Sissi was distracted by two young men, tourists. As a result I walked slap into a metal bollard in the pavement, it was the exact height of my crotch. The blow was painful enough to knock the sense out of me for a few moments and I had to use the nearest wall for support. Sissi was very distressed at me coming to harm so I tried to reassure her while my eyes watered and I fought the pains radiating out from my pubis. After a few minutes I tried to continue but the pain was such that I feared I had perhaps damaged myself or one of the metal plates in my pelvis. It took me thirty minutes to make it to Tyjardia & Nonke;s house. Ty is also my doctor, it’s a walk that would normally take five minutes. Ty examined me carefully and concluded there was no damage to bones or plates, but the bruises were already very clearly visible on and around the upper part of my vulva. By that evening when Nina got home and took a look my vulva was black and blue. So please, never distract a guide dog at work, what they do is important and disturbing them at work can cause those of us who rely on our four legged friends injury.

Now I can see the funny side of what happened to me even though at the time it hurt. Below is another bit of amusement that had my children rolling around laughing………..

Author: Judith.

Rape Revisited



Eleven years ago I was sexually assaulted and left for dead. In the bloody aftermath of the attack the experts were not able to state categorically whether I had been raped or not. Mercifully the extent of damage to my skull and brain which had resulted in my deafness also limited my recall of the attack and so I was unable to contribute any useful memory. Given the nature of the injuries to my lower abdomen and pelvis it was thought unlikely that any rape would have taken place because the amount of blood loss via my vagina. The feeling was that it would have been enough to discourage even the most dedicated sadist. So for a decade I lived in the belief that while I had been attacked most brutally I had not been violated by rape.

In March 2008 I sustained another head injury and another intracranial bleed resulting in the need for further surgery to my brain, this time to preserve my eyesight. Within days of waking from surgery I began to realise that while some of my shorter term memories had vanished some of my longer term ones seem to have been released.

For some months I tried to deny these memories to myself. I tried to think of them as false memories, products of imagination or confused versions of reality, in short I tried to turn those memories into something other than what they probably were.  I realise now that this was a mistake, doing this contributed to the depression and acute anxiety states since.

I knew I was slipping into a form of depression, this is common enough after major brain surgery and so I put it down to that. I also appreciated that I was living in fear of my reduced senses because my eye sight repeatedly failed me, but I pushed on with life, stuffing my fears and anxieties deep down inside me.

This worked for a while, until I encountered a very aggressive muslim man in a supermarket in town who took exception to the presence of my guide dog in the store. The event scared me senseless, it scared me back into our home, too frightened to venture out alone again for many months. One night soon after my wife sat me down and told me to tell her, but she had already worked out what I had been to afraid to tell her. I told her how I now recalled seeing my attackers face above me felt his weight on my broken pelvis, the agony of that over riding the pain of the actual rape, the rancid, rank stink of him close to me.

It was time to get some help.

I am very lucky, very privileged, to have a supportive extended family with deep resources, they found me a wonderful therapist who specialised in Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR). For a little over a year she has walked me back through the last eleven years, facing up to all the negatives and building on all the positives. The first thing we dealt with was the validity of the memories I had been having since the last surgery. Real or not they were having a very real impact on me so now, for the first time I am going to say this publicly and then keep moving forward with my life;

“Hello, my name is Judith and eleven years ago I was raped, not sexually assaulted but raped”

Author: Judith

Maternal Separation

We miss our babies.

After just two days away we are missing them. Last night I thought we would be taking advantage of our rather nice hotel suite and the lack of little ones walking into our bedroom at just the wrong moment and catch up on the old “hot-n-heavy” action, but no. We did try but it was clear our hearts were not in it as we both missed the children, and so in the end we called room service and had them send up two truly enormous ice cream sundaes, a pot of tea and some cookies. Our impromptu meal was not the most well balanced, containing as it did two of the worst food groups possible, sugar and fat, but it was very therapeutic mentally. As we set about eating the ice we started up the laptop and called home. For over two hours we chatted to the children and my poor parents who had kindly volunteered to take up residence in our house and look after them for a week. I always love hearing about the children’s day at school (the oldest two) each afternoon when they get home. I consider it a high point of my day as they show me their books, drawing and paintings, while going on all the time about their various friends at school. The earnest feelings and passion behind everything they say, the wonderful expression by sign language of all the feelings that the day have crammed into their little hearts wipes away all my worries at a stroke.

After Hilke and Nicholas finished chatting to us my mother and father filled us in on our two little ones. We learned how they had played, what they learnt and what they managed to knock over or break. We heard all about the new books they bought the children while shopping, and finally how tired they were themselves after their busy day. It was well past the children’s bed time by the time when we finally signed off for the night and as we did my dad asked Nina and I if we felt better for our long chat. It seems history repeats itself with each generation. They used to miss my sister and I when they had to be away from home for any reason, so they had known right away the reason for our call when we asked to talk to the children on the computer.

Just as we were about to shut down for the night Jette, our god daughter, came online and so we told her about our day and heard about hers. Then we watched a few short videos she had made of herself learning sign language (NGB). They are lovely and I think we will work them into our web site as soon as we get back.

Sissi - Ears & Eyes

Sissi - Ears & Eyes

Sissi, my ears and eyes guide dog, sensing an opportunity came up onto our bed to comfort us. It was either to comfort us or try and get at the cookies, I suspect the latter more than the former. Sissi has a very sweet tooth and loves cake and cookies. She cornered the plate of cookies and with a glance to us for consent (probably just for the sake of good manners!) she set about reducing four hundred grams of crunchy delight to just a few crumbs on the porcelain plate, then not being one to waste a good thing, she finished up the few remaining crumbs as well. Normally we are quite strict about the dogs not sleeping on the bed. That right is traditionally reserved for cats and kids in our household, but this night she was allowed to stay. I am sure she enjoyed the one hundred count Egyptian cotton sheets as much as we did. Sometime around one am we all fell asleep on the big hotel bed. Tucked up tightly against Nina I dreamt of the children and in my sleep I missed them even more. In my dreams I can always hear them talking but once I wake I can never remember what their little voices sounded like. It is a terrible frustration because I have never heard my own children and my heart so yearns to, so much so that for me even the dream of their voices would be as wonderful as hearing their real ones.

Maternal Separation has a powerful draw on our hearts so we will be very happy to get home next week.

Author: Judith.