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Johna Peterson


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As a small child, I loved the guitar. So much so, that my mother once brought me to a music store. She asked the shop owner, “Do you have any guitars?” He answered, “No, only banjos.” She asked me, “Would you like a banjo?” I was so small that my nose barely reached the counter. I answered, “No.”


In grammar school I was offered and given piano lessons, but my love for the guitar persisted. When I was fourteen, I bought my first guitar. I taught myself chords and began singing. Many years later, I heard a woman singing as she accompanied herself on the mandolin. I became drawn to this haunting instrument and its possibilities, and began to play that as well. 


I began writing songs in my 20’s. At that time I was a Sister of Mercy.  After many years my path changed, and I became a Mercy Associate.  The songs I write are contemplative in nature and seem to emerge from periods of silence. The lyrics are my own or emerge from texts I have sat with for a long time, often adapted from mystics or a biblical source, especially the Hebrew Scriptures. 


In the last decade or so, I have also found myself at home in Zen Buddhism and in the sanghas of Sonoma County and San Francisco Zen Center, and have also begun to write songs from the Buddhist sutras. 


By profession, I am a longtime hospice nurse, a profession that was a gift. Prior to that I was a high school English teacher, with a love of the written word. Of other interest, I live in the California redwoods, love nature, and am a lover of animals. I am the proud granddaughter of Italian immigrants. All of these make up the fabric of my life and find their way into the music that emerges. 


The word I have most heard associated with this music is “soothing.” It originated in silence, and my hope is that it also draws the listener into the silence and contemplation from which it originated. May it permeate all spiritual traditions and be a healing balm for our world.


Listen to "Litany" Now!

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